OLD TOWN, Maine — A limited liability corporation that shares an address with a Connecticut-based asset liquidator purchased the shuttered Expera Specialty Solutions pulp mill Wednesday, according to property records and a spokeswoman for the seller.
“Expera Specialty Solutions has sold the Old Town pulp mill to MFGR LLC,” Expera spokeswoman Addie Teeters said in an emailed statement.
Teeters declined to identify the people or business who formed the limited liability corporation, saying the group would issue a news release about the purchase.
According to county property records, the company shares a mailing address — 1654 King St., Enfield, Connecticut — with the Connecticut-based Capital Recovery Group LLC. That company was part of the joint venture group that bought the equipment of Lincoln Paper and Tissue in November and also bid on the assets of Great Northern Paper Co.
Records show MFGR was incorporated in Delaware on Dec. 22, 2015. A message left for National Corp., which represents the entity, was not immediately returned. Nobody was immediately available for comment after business hours at Capital Recovery Group’s headquarters in Connecticut.
Capital Recovery Group was one of four asset liquidators in a joint venture led by Boston-based Gordon Brothers Commercial & Industrial LLC to purchase the Lincoln equipment for $5.95 million. The other companies in the group are PPL Group LLC of Illinois and Rabin Worldwide of California. The equipment in the Lincoln mill is expected to be auctioned off in April, making it unlikely that papermaking will continue at the site.
Capital Recovery Group’s president, who was listed as a principal backer of GNP Acquisition, submitted the stalking horse bid of $2.6 million for the East Millinocket mill during its 2014 bankruptcy sale. The mill ultimately was purchased by Hackman Capital Partners of Los Angeles for $5.4 million.
Duane Lugdon, United Steelworkers Union international representative for Maine, said Wednesday in an email that union members are “engaged in finding out more about the sale of the [Old Town] mill assets.”
“Expera has been extremely secretive about its dealings and at this time we frankly know very little,” Lugdon said. “We don’t know if they considered the well-being of employees, the city of Old Town or indeed the state of Maine in their consideration. One might think they would have some desire to care about the region but perhaps we hope for too much when it comes to the corporate ethics in America today.”
Expera Specialty Solutions of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, acquired the assets of the former Old Town Fuel and Fiber pulp mill for $10.5 million on Dec. 5, 2014, during bankruptcy proceedings in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
It was announced in late September that Expera would close the facility at the end of 2015, affecting 195 workers. The mill had provided pulp for the parent company’s four mills in Wisconsin.
Expera Specialty Solutions blamed the closure on the declining value of the Canadian dollar, excess pulp supply in the marketplace and relatively expensive wood costs in Maine, Teeters said at the time.
Expera’s closure announcement came less than a day after Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC announced it had filed for bankruptcy and would be sold at auction, affecting 179 workers.
Expera Specialty Solutions was formed last year when KPS Capital Partners purchased Thilmany Papers and Wausau Specialty Paper. The company makes bags for microwave popcorn, wine labels, candy wrappers and other specialty papers.
Expera bought the buildings in Old Town, the mill equipment and personal property, such as trucks and office equipment; and the land on which the mill is located after creditors forced Old Town Fuel and Fiber into bankruptcy.
Teeters declined to say what would happen to the University of Maine’s Technology Research Center, which opened about five years ago and is located in the mill’s former finished product storage area on the southern portion of the site.
Researchers within the University of Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute are working on campus to create and commercialize new wood-based bioproducts that they test on a larger scale at the Technology Research Center. The center is currently renting month to month, Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president of innovation and economic development, said in December.
The deed notes the university’s tenancy at the property in the exceptions to MFGR’s rights to the property.
City Manager Bill Mayo said in an email Wednesday evening that the mill’s fiscal year 2015-16 taxes have not been paid. Prior taxes for the 40-acre riverfront property amounted to around $1 million annually.
BDN writer Darren Fishell contributed to this report.