September 23, 2018
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After 15 years, Great Northern Paper bankruptcy wraps up

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
The former Great Northern Paper Co. site in East Millinocket, as seen on Feb. 7, 2017. The mill, which at its peak in the 1970s and 1980s produced 16 percent of the newsprint in the United States, filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 3, 2003.
By Lori Valigra

The Great Northern Paper Co.’s bankruptcy case ended unceremoniously Monday, 15 years after it was filed on Jan. 9, 2003.

In a 335-page filing, Chapter 7 trustee Gary M. Growe submitted his certification that the estate’s assets and funds were accounted for, and asked the court to discharge him from further duties. A total of 2,851 documents were filed in the case.

Chief Judge Peter Cary of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maine approved both requests Monday. He ordered the proceeding closed in 30 days.

Close to $203 million in assets were abandoned during the bankruptcy, and $15.5 million was distributed to claimants. Another $302.8 million of claims were discharged without payment. Expenses to administer the bankruptcy case and estate topped $6.6 million. The net receipts from liquidating the property were $22.1 million.

Former workers at the company’s mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket were paid in December 2017 for a “small fraction” of the pensions, vacation and severance pay they earned, Growe told the Bangor Daily News at the time. He said the former employees were the only unsecured creditors who received any payment.

Great Northern’s mills declined under a series of owners that tried to repurpose the mills.

The two mills were bought by Brookfield Asset Management in 2003, and continued their decline. Layoffs followed in 2008, and Brookfield closed the Millinocket mill in September 2008.

In 2011, Cate Street Capital bought the mills. The Millinocket mill was never reopened, but the East Millinocket mill in 2012 supplied the paper to print the popular “Fifty Shades of Grey” book trilogy.

East Millinocket’s mill closed for good in February 2014 after its owner listed more than 1,000 creditors and at least $50 million in debt.

On Jan. 12, 2017, the nonprofit Our Katahdin bought the remaining former Great Northern Paper assets in Millinocket from two subsidiaries of Cate Street Capital, GNP West and GNP Holding II.

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