June 21, 2018
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Businessman who tried to buy Old Town mill continues lawsuit

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
September 2015 file photo of the former Expera mill in Old Town. An earlier bidder on the mill, which was sold on Jan. 29 to OTM Holdings, is suing the seller of the mill, MFGR, claiming a breach of contract and seeking to get paid for work it did to improve the mill and get it ready for sale at a higher price.
By Lori Valigra

A Cape Elizabeth businessman who tried unsuccessfully to purchase the Old Town mill wants compensation for his efforts to line up the failed deal.

Samuel Eakin, of Cape Elizabeth, and two companies he manages are seeking unspecified damages related to the mill’s sale through a lawsuit filed in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland.

Eakin originally filed the suit in November 2017, aiming to block former mill owner MFGR from selling the property to another buyer. It alleged that MFGR had an enforceable agreement to sell the mill to Eakin and his two companies. The complaint also included parties related to that sale.

Judge Michaela Murphy, in the Superior Court’s Business and Consumer Court, on Jan. 31 ruled against Eakin on the motion to block the mill’s sale, as well as an antitrust claim. However, she asked Eakin and his attorney, Clifford Ginn of Scarborough, to provide a more definitive statement for other motions in their complaint.

On Feb. 12, Eakin and his companies, Old Town Utility & Technology Park and Relentless Capital Co., filed a 51-page amended version of their civil lawsuit, along with seven exhibits to back up the seven-count claim. The updated filing includes details about the alleged breach of contract by MFGR and “unjustified enrichment,” meaning MFGR benefited from work Eakin did to improve the mill.

In addition to claiming a breach of contract by the mill’s previous owner and related parties, they seek damages for time and money they spent to line up tenants, and financing and development partners for the mill.

Eakin and his companies were proposing to resurrect the pulp mill. Ginn said over the long term, his clients expected the pulp mill and associated sawmill and chip mill operations to be the primary revenue driver for the facility. Selling power and steam to the University of Maine and warehouse rents were to be secondary.

In the updated complaint, Eakin and his companies claim that as a result of MFGR’s alleged breach of contract, they suffered damages from the value of buying the mill, from being excluded from a lucrative bid to supply energy to the University of Maine and from the time, money and resources spent to pursue the purchase of the mill.

They are seeking money, interest, legal fees and other remedies the court might find suitable.

“They brought this suit to be made whole after those opportunities were wrongfully taken from them, and in hopes of still creating those pulp mill jobs and preventing the current high-cost approach to powering the university,” Ginn said. “Their claims will go to trial for damages now, but their concerns with antitrust and bid process manipulation will have to be addressed through public scrutiny.”

The trial is scheduled for November. In the meantime, the parties will gather evidence and experts to testify.

Daniel Mitchell, an attorney at Bernstein Shur in Portland who is listed in court documents as representing MFGR and its related parties, was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

It is unclear what, if any, impact the continuing lawsuit will have on the mill’s redevelopment.

Another company, OTM Holdings, bought the property on Jan. 31 and said it plans to attract tenants that will use low-grade fiber from the forestry industry to produce wood-fiber products.

The mill, located at 24 Portland St. in Old Town, opened in 1860 as a sawmill and has since had various owners.

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