BANGOR (AP) – Eastern Pulp and Paper Corp.’s bankruptcy status has changed to one that usually leads to liquidation, but Gov. John Baldacci and others haven’t given up on restarting two mills and finding buyers for them.

At least five companies or individuals are interested in buying the mills in Brewer and Lincoln, Gov. John Baldacci told the Bangor Daily News.

Two of the suitors were to tour the mills Friday, and two others plan to visit the mills next week. The fifth suitor will be taking to the governor by phone.

Baldacci and his legal counsel Kurt Adams have talked with the mills’ newly appointed trustee, Bangor attorney Gary Growe, about a plan that could possibly restart the mills even while in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

But the plan would have to be approved and funded by secured lenders who balked at a $3.8 million loan on Wednesday. Also, U.S. Bankruptcy Chief Judge James B. Haines would have to give his approval. There is a glimmer of hope, though, because those lenders could get greater collateral rights to the mills’ assets under Chapter 7 than were possible under Chapter 11 protection, under which the company had operated since 2000.

Growe will have to decide whether the mills should be closed altogether and turned over to secured creditors who could sell them piecemeal, or whether keeping the mills operational and pursuing a buyer is a better alternative.

Eastern Fine Paper and Lincoln Pulp and Paper together employed 750 people before they shut down.

in mid-January. The mills make tissue, specialty napkins, and coated labels, among other things.

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AP-ES-02-05-04 2209EST

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