Atlas announces intent to purchase mill, following bill veto
By MMC staff
CENTRAL WISCONSIN – Atlas Holdings, LLC, has announced its intent to purchase Verso in its entirety, following Gov. Tony Evers’ veto of Assembly Bill No. 367, which was designed to provide assistance in restarting the Wisconsin Rapids Verso mill.
The bill, authored by Sen. Patrick Testin (Stevens Point) and Rep. Scott Krug (town of Rome), passed in the state Senate on June 30, after passing the Assembly on June 22.
The bill would have provided a $50 million loan to a buyer for the Wisconsin Rapids paper mill and a $15 million loan to a buyer for the Park Falls paper mill. Both Verso mills are currently idle.
The Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association (GLTPA) has also been working with the University of Wisconsin in forming a cooperative entity to purchase the mill and return it to operation as a soft/pulpwood plant. Incorporated as Timber Professionals Cooperative (TPC), the group was working to obtain the necessary funding and making other arrangements with Verso to purchase and operate the mill.
“So, now we’ve got this company, Atlas, who watched the veto happen, saw their opportunity and came in and said, ‘Fine, we’ll just do this on our own.’ So, now we’ve got competing interests. (We’re) trying to see what lies ahead for the co-op, if Atlas is going to be the one jumping in now,” Krug told Wisconsin Public Radio.
Atlas said that the company is already a Verso investor and owns a little less than 10 percent of the company’s voting capacity.
Atlas and its affiliates are a cluster of 23 “manufacturing and distribution businesses in the automotive, building materials, business services and solutions, construction, energy, industrial services, metals, packaging, pulp, paper, and logistics industries.” The company was founded in 2002, but says that many of their companies have been doing business for over a century.
Verso Corporation confirmed that it received an “unsolicited proposal” from Atlas regarding a “potential transaction” to acquire all outstanding shares of Verso Class A common stock for $20 a share in cash.
“Consistent with its fiduciary responsibilities, Verso’s Board of Directors, in consultation with its financial and legal advisors, will carefully review and evaluate the proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interests of Verso and its stockholders. Verso stockholders need take no action at this time,” the release added.
“There can be no assurance that any negotiations between Verso and Atlas Holdings LLC regarding this proposal will take place, and if such negotiations do take place, there can be no assurance that any transaction with Atlas Holdings LLC will occur or be consummated. Verso does not intend to make any additional comments regarding the proposal or any other related matter or potential transaction unless and until it is appropriate to do so or a formal agreement has been reached.”
Krug added that legislators will continue to work on potential means to assist in getting the Wisconsin Rapids mill up and running again, stating that it is the “heart and soul” of the Wisconsin Rapids community job picture.
“This was the No. 1 employer up until June of last year; it’s been the No. 1 employer for close to a century. So, this means about everything to Wisconsin Rapids to get this facility up and going again,” he said.
“In its heyday, we had up to 6,000 people working in that mill throughout those heyday years. At the time of its closure, at full operation, we were still at about a thousand jobs.”