The Old Town pulp mill has been sold, the latest event to throw uncertainty into state’s changing paper industry.

Expera Specialty Solutions, the Wisconsin-based paper company that owned the mill, said the sale to MFGR LLC closed Wednesday. Terms were not disclosed.

MFGR was formed by the same four companies, led by CRG Acquisitions, that bought the Lincoln Paper and Tissue mill this past fall. That mill is being dismantled and its equipment is expected to be sold at auction later this year.

On Tuesday, Verso Corp. announced it was filing for bankruptcy protection to reorganize $2.4 billion in debt. The company operates a paper mill in Jay where 550 people work. Verso said it intends to continue making paper at the mill with existing staff through the bankruptcy action.

William J. Firestone, the head of the CRG Acquisitions, said he has fielded expressions of interest from companies interested in buying the Old Town mill, including some that have indicated they would continue to operate it as a pulp mill. Others seem interested in warehouse space, he said, and another operates an aquaculture business.

Firestone declined to identify the companies or offer more details about potential uses of the property. He said MFGR will begin negotiations with potential buyers soon, but he couldn’t say when a deal is likely.

“There’s a lot of positive stuff” in the expressions of interest in the mill, he said.

The site includes the pulp mill, about 400,000 square feet of warehouse and building space, a wastewater treatment plant, a 16-megawatt biomass boiler, 300 acres of land and 4,000 feet of frontage on the Penobscot River. The mill was founded 130 years ago, and once employed 400 people. It started to founder in 2006 when its owner, Georgia Pacific, relocated operations to the South to save on energy costs. The next year, the state stepped in with an investment group pledging to restart the mill and create a laboratory to explore using woody biomass for fuel.

The University of Maine continues to operate a research and development center on the mill property, researching new wood-based bioproducts. Firestone said the university’s lease, which is month-to-month, would be extended while the options for selling the mill are explored.

Jack Ward, University of Maine vice president of innovation and Economic Development, said mill doesn’t have to be operating for the R&D center’s work to continue.

He said the university would like to work out a long-term lease for the research center.

“We’re waiting for the ownership to settle,” he said.

Expera Specialty Solutions bought the pulp mill in December 2014. The company closed the mill in September 2015, saying that decline in the value of the Canadian dollar and an increase in the number of pulp mills had caused pulp prices to decline. About 195 people lost their jobs.


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