BUCKSPORT, Maine — Despite a flurry of legal action and the hopes of millworkers who wanted to continue making paper, the sale of the Verso Paper mill to a subsidiary of scrap dealer American Iron and Metal has been completed, a company spokesman confirmed Friday.
“The sale has closed,” Verso spokesman Bill Cohen said in an email.
The sale price to AIM Development was $58 million, according to earlier published reports.
News of the sale was a relief to Derik Goodine, Bucksport town manager, who said in an email on Friday that officials from the Montreal-based scrap metal firm “will entertain buyers for the mill if the prospective buyers are serious, and they have the financial resources to purchase the mill and the power plant.”
Verso officials apparently did not consider other offers, the town manager said.
Goodine said he thinks Gov. Paul LePage and his staff will join town officials to help bring potential buyers together with AIM.
“The key, though, is that these companies need to be willing to buy the entire mill, power plants and all, and have the finances in place in order to buy it,” Goodine said. “AIM is not going to sit around for weeks entertaining proposals from speculative new owners for the facility. They need to be real and have the resources in place to buy the mill from AIM.”
The International Association of Machinists, which represented 59 workers at the mill, filed a lawsuit against Verso and AIM in December, alleging Verso violated antitrust regulations by ignoring inquiries from other paper companies so it could reduce competition in the North American coated paper market.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock, however, disagreed when he issued a 73-page ruling earlier this month saying lawyers for the machinists union “have not met their burden to demonstrate a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their claims.”
With the mill’s closure and sale, about 500 employees were left without jobs. Another 50 to 60 workers affiliated with the mill’s power generation facilities were expected to remain employed. In testimony filed with the court on Jan. 2, Jeff McGlin, AIM’s U.S. vice president for development, wrote that AIM has hired an outside contractor to run the power assets through the first part of 2015.
AIM confirmed in court documents it has some interest in using the mill site as a permanent recycling facility for its deepwater port access. The testimony before Woodcock indicated the company expects it would be ready to sell salvaged metal from the mill about six months after closing the sale.
Bucksport Town Councilor Byron Vinton said Friday he is glad AIM representatives so far seem willing to talk to Bucksport officials about the future of the mill.
“We’re looking forward to working with them,” he said. “They’re the owners of the property now. We acknowledge that. We’re looking forward to getting the best solution for Bucksport.”
It would be great, Vinton said, if that solution includes working things out with one of the paper companies that have expressed interest in purchasing and continuing to operate the mill.
“We’ll have to see what time brings,” the councilor said. “At least now we know who we’re dealing with. For the last several months, we’ve been the odd man out. We haven’t had a lot of success communicating with Verso. Now we know who the owner is so we can work with them. All we ask is the opportunity to put our thoughts into the mix.”
AIM owner Herb Black, contacted on his cellphone Friday morning, said he was in Arizona for the Super Bowl this weekend and could not speak to a reporter until Tuesday.
Goodine said in an email Friday that town officials want to see the mill and power plants sold to a mill operator that will put people back to work.
“If such a company does not pan out, then we are looking forward to working with AIM on exploring other possible commercial and industrial ventures on the various former Verso properties,” he said.