Madawaska paper mill sold, former Domtar manager named new CEO

By Whit Richardson, BDN Staff
Posted June 11, 2013, at 8:11 a.m.

MADAWASKA, Maine — The purchase of Twin Rivers Paper Co. is complete, three weeks after the deal was first announced.

New York-based Blue Wolf Capital Partners and Atlas Holdings LLC has closed on their purchase of the company, which owns facilities in Madawaska and New Brunswick, from Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management. The deal was first announced in late May.

Twin Rivers is a major employer in northern Maine, with more than 620 working in its Madawaska mill. The company produces specialty paper and lumber products, including the uncoated printing paper used as pharmaceutical inserts in North America.

“We applaud Blue Wolf/Atlas’ decision to invest in Maine and to maintain good jobs for Maine residents while taking on the challenges Twin Rivers faces in an increasingly competitive market,” Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement released Monday. “Your decision to locate here is a sign of encouragement for my administration.”

Blue Wolf and Atlas Holdings have brought in their own CEO to take over management of Twin Rivers. Tim Lowe has replaced James Gehrman.

Lowe is a Maine native, a 30-year veteran of the paper industry, and the former general manager of the pulp mill in Baileyville.

Blue Wolf and Atlas Holdings recruited Lowe away from what was then Domtar’s pulp mill in 2009 to run a pulp mill they had acquired in Nova Scotia.

“Over the course of 12 months, he set every production record there was in the mill,” Tim Fazio, managing partner of Atlas Holdings, told the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday. “He’s a tremendous operator.”

Fazio wouldn’t comment on the decision to replace Gehrman, except to say, “It’s not out of the ordinary for a new owner to pick somebody they have a lot of confidence in to run their assets. We’ve worked with [Lowe] before, we have a shared vision of what we’re trying to build, and so we wanted to have him come in and be the CEO.”

In addition, the government of New Brunswick on Monday announced that it has offered a $35 million loan to Blue Wolf and Atlas Holdings. Besides the paper mill in Madawaska, Twin Rivers operates a pulp mill across the border in Edmundston, N.B., and a lumber mill in Plaster Rock, N.B.

The loan is contingent on a matching investment from Blue Wolf and Atlas Holdings, Fazio said. He said they expect to invest in the operations, but not before finding what efficiencies they’re able to implement on their own.

“We have to get the mill operating in such a way that it earns the right to get capital invested in it, and gets to a level of operational excellence that supports the company and province committing more capital to it,” Fazio said.

When asked if Maine had offered financial support to the company, Fazio said they had spoken with Maine officials and that he believes they’re exploring different ways the state could help the business.

“In general, the state of Maine has been very welcoming and is looking for ways to invest as well,” he said.

BDN writer Tony Reaves contributed to this report.

 

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/06/11/news/aroostook/madawaska-paper-mill-company-sold/ printed on December 28, 2014