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Billerud will sell its idled Wisconsin Rapids paper mill

WISCONSIN RAPIDS (From news reports) - The idled portions of the Wisconsin Rapids mill will be sold.

Billerud will keep and continue to operate its Wisconsin Rapids converting facility and the 130 employees at that site and will sell the idled mill and related assets to Capital Recovery Group, the company said in a Thursday news release.

The transaction is expected to close next month.

The paper mill has been idle since June 2020 when Verso halted production and continued its converting operations, leaving more than 900 employees without a job. In March 2022, Verso merged with Billerud, a Sweden-based company that focuses on sustainable packaging. Billerud has continued converting operations in Wisconsin Rapids since that merger.

Tor Lundqvist, Billerud's deputy president and senior vice president of operations for North America, said the decision to sell the idled mill and related assets is the best alternative to all stakeholders. He said selling the idled mill and related assets will allow Billerud to focus on its core business objectives, optimize resources and focus on long-term strategy and sustainable growth.

"We look forward to finalizing the transaction in the near future and continuing to invest in the converting operation at the site," he said.

While the idled mill will be sold, Billerud reaffirmed its commitment to owning and operating the converting facility in the city, according to the release. The Wisconsin Rapids site is vital to Billerud operations, converting rolls of paper made at its two Michigan mills into folio and digital sheets, and it also sheets cartonboard imported from Billerud's European mills. The Wisconsin Rapids and Michigan mills allow the company to deliver products and services quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively, according to the release.

Kevin Kuznicki, Billerud's president and general council for North America, said the company thanks the Wisconsin Rapids team and the community for their support of the mill as Billerud went through a strategic exploration process.

"We are proud of the significant role the mill has played in the paper and pulp industry's history and our longtime record of community involvement and partnership," he said. "We look forward to continuing our community support with the ongoing operation of the Wisconsin Rapids Converting Facility, keeping more than 130 jobs in the area, as well as indirectly supporting thousands of jobs throughout our supply chain."
While Billerud and Capital Recovery Group wait for the finalization, Billerud has authorized CRG to begin promoting a public auction for certain idled and obsolete equipment. The auction will be held after the sale is final.

According to Capital Recovery Group's website, CRG is a global private equity firm that specializes in industrial assets and real estate. The company revitalizes idled or marginally productive assets and liquidates surplus.
The company provides realty services, including creating opportunity for repurpose, sale leasebacks, real estate auctions, plant decommissioning, demolition and remediation management. CRG also offers auction services for industrial assets.

Mayor Shane Blaser and Kyle Kearns, the city's director of community development, shared their optimism with the Daily Tribune Thursday afternoon, saying the sale will open up more opportunity for redevelopment at the property.

Kearns said CRG has had experience and specializes in similar situations and he thinks the company is interested in redeveloping the property.

Blaser said the city will prioritize forthcoming conversations with the company to make sure CRG and the city are on the same page when it comes to redevelopment opportunities and what types of redevelopment might do well in the area.

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