BANGOR – The future of Georgia-Pacific Corp.’s Woodland pulp and paper mill remains unknown after the papermaker completed its purchase of Fort James Corp., including its Old Town mill, for $11 million this week.
In late August, a G-P spokesman confirmed that the Woodland facility and two out-of-state mills were for sale, but the possible buyer was not identified. On Thursday, spokesman Greg Guest in Atlanta said a sale still is part of G-P’s long-term strategy to divest of commodities-based operations.
“We have interest from potential buyers but no firm deal from any of them,” Guest said. “As soon as we do, we’ll make a statement.”
G-P operates three facilities in the Baileyville area: mills for pulp and paper, studs and composite board. They employ about 600 people with an annual payroll of $45.5 million, and the mills contribute about 80 percent of the property taxes paid in Baileyville.
In the meantime, G-P is proceeding with its strategy to position itself as the world’s leading manufacturer of tissue products. That included purchasing Fort James, Guest said. It will pay about $37 in cash and stock for each share of Fort James and will assume about $3.5 billion of Fort James’ debt.
“We’re going to make more tissue and sell more tissue,” Guest said. “We’ll have more capacity and a larger presence in the tissue business.”
The deal was not without a hitch. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice told G-P that it must sell its commercial tissue business in order to win government approval to buy Fort James. The following day, the companies and the federal agency signed a consent decree acknowledging that the division would be sold.
Fort James and G-P are the largest and second-largest U.S. producers of commercial tissue, which includes paper towels, napkins and bath tissue for use in public settings such as restaurants and bathrooms.
Fort James was created by the 1997 merger of Green Bay, Wis.-based Fort Howard Corp. and Richmond, Va.-based Jame River Corp. The Old Town mill employs more than 540 people and produces Brawny paper towels, Vanity Fair napkins and Northern Quilted toilet paper.
The company has about 25,000 employees at 50 factories in the United States, Canada and Europe. It also produces Soft ‘N Gentle, Mardi Gras, So-Dri and Dixie paper products.
G-P employs about 55,000 people at more than 500 locations in North America. It makes Angel Soft and Sparkle paper goods and is the nation’s largest producer of structural wood panels.