California investor completes $5.4 million purchase of bankrupt GNP

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EAST MILLINOCKET — A California investor and a court-appointed trustee finalized a $5.4 million sale agreement Friday for the assets of the bankrupt Great Northern Paper Co.

Hackman Capital Partners of Los Angeles wired funds and finalized the mill purchase agreement with bankruptcy trustee Pasquale J. “Pat” Perrino on Friday, in exchange for the bill of sale and deed to the buildings and equipment at the mill site. The deal was culminated at about 7 p.m., according to the trustee’s attorney Randy Creswell.

East Millinocket is owed $767,392 in back property and real estate taxes from GNP from over the past two years. As part of the sale terms the town will receive an estimated $686,000 of that amount, according to Creswell.

“We are obviously very happy that it closed Friday, and on Monday we plan to be wiring funds to the town and the other secured creditors,” Creswell said Friday. “The Hackman Capital folks have been exceeding professional to work with and pull this together fast. We have definitely been impressed with their whole team.”

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U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Louis Kornreich approved on Nov. 21 a plan for auctioning the mill on Dec. 2, the day Hackman outbid four other businesses to buy the mill. That plan set aside 30 percent of the shuttered GNP mill’s sale price, after administrative costs, to pay unsecured creditors who have filed claims.

Those claims, Creswell said, won’t be paid until sometime after the unsecured creditor claim filing date expires next month.

“It takes quite a bit of time to administer a bankruptcy estate and say that we have reduced all the assets to money that we can. It will be months,” Creswell said.

Kornreich approved the Hackman bid package on Tuesday, three days before approving another mill sale, of the Old Town mill to Expera Specialty Solutions for $10.5 million. Expera is a Wisconsin firm that intends to restart the mill and put about 200 people back to work.

Hackman officials said Tuesday they have no idea yet what they would do with the East Millinocket mill but did say they are not mill operators.

Town officials said a Hackman official to whom they were introduced during a 30-minute meet-and-greet on Wednesday disclosed that the company wants to market the mill to paper manufacturers globally and investigate repurposing it.

In a Wall Street Journal interview this week, a managing director of Hackman Capital said the company hopes — through marketing the Great Northern Paper assets for sale — to find a buyer for the entire operation and perhaps restart it.

The repurposing options include marketing the mill’s individual components, such as its bark boiler, papermaking machinery and others, as individual businesses or turning the mill into an industrial site, assisting companies in moving to it and possibly investing in them, officials said.

The company liquidated its papermaking equipment in its most recent purchase of a similar paper mill in Snowflake, Arizona, in 2012, an occurrence company officials blamed on that mill’s previous owner, who effectively destroyed that mill’s ability to produce paper.

The company also has had some success marketing a mammoth former General Motors auto plant in Michigan and been working to redevelop a former soup factory in California it purchased in late 2013.

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