Shuttered Maine paper mill owner sues hopeful buyer, says it has other suitors

Posted April 04, 2017, at 3:10 p.m.
Last modified April 04, 2017, at 4:49 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The owner of the shuttered Great Northern Paper mill in East Millinocket claims a lawsuit from one prospective buyer has prevented it from considering others willing to pay millions.

North American Recovery Management and its ACM NARM Maine LLC on Monday filed counterclaims against prospective buyer EMEP LLC.

The companies signed a letter of intent in June 2016 to put the deal in motion, but negotiations stalled and EMEP sued in January to try and force the $1.75 million sale.

In its counterclaim, the seller claims EMEP “repeatedly” sent proposed purchase-and-sale agreements that were “wildly inconsistent with the letter of intent.” Meanwhile, the countersuit states, the seller relied on the buyer’s promise to sign a purchase-and-sale agreement eventually.

“NARM has been harmed by its reliance on EMEP’s promise because it has missed opportunities to sell the property to a willing buyer,” the seller claimed, adding that some prospective buyers were willing to pay “millions” for the property.

The seller did not disclose the identity of those other parties and did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Thimi Mina, an attorney for buyer EMEP, in an email wrote the counterclaim “seems to be more of a strategic exercise” as a way to “get a better deal than the one it agreed to last year.”

“EMEP, on the other hand, wants the agreement that it bargained for and that NARM agreed to so that it can get started on this promising venture in East Millinocket,” Mina wrote.

EMEP argued its proposals were consistent with the letter of intent and that inaction to close the deal was NARM’s fault. That claim prompted the dispute between the two companies. A judge ordered the seller to limit the extent of its demolition at the mill site until the dispute is resolved.

EMEP’s initial lawsuit claimed it secured a right to buy the property for $1.75 million. It hopes to build a biorefinery there that it says would be the centerpiece of a much larger plan for “bioenergy parks” across the state, led by the company Stored Solar. That company operates biomass plants in West Enfield and Jonesboro.

[ Developers eye East Millinocket as heart of $240M biomass venture]

In EMEP’s lawsuit, it said that delays in acquiring the land could jeopardize its application for a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy and an investment tax credit for biomass electricity generation.

The parties failed to reach a settlement after a March 27 hearing. A hearing is set for April 27 to consider whether to extend the limit on demolition at the mill site and, possibly, to argue the merits of the case.

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