Possible buyer talks to IP union

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 31, 2001

Representatives of a prospective buyer met this week with union leaders at International Paper’s Natchez mill.

Lillie DeShields, spokesperson for the mill, said the visit was part of the prospective buyer’s due diligence process; as such, it included &uot;preliminary discussions with union leaders.&uot;

DeShields would not elaborate on the details of those discussions. Any company interested in purchasing the Natchez mill would have to negotiate contracts with the unions which already have collective bargaining agreements in place with International Paper.

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International Paper is selling its more than 50-year-old Natchez mill as part of a planned divestiture of its chemical cellulose business. The mill is the only IP-owned mill which produces chemical cellulose. It employs approximately 750 people with annual payroll of $31 million.

Since IP announced plans to sell the mill in July 2000, company officials have kept mum about prospective buyers.

&uot;As part of the confidentiality agreement between International Paper and prospective buyers, the names of any interested parties must remain confidential, unless and until both IP and the prospect agree to release that information,&uot; DeShields said.

However, the prospect that visited this week is not the only prospective buyer interested in the mill, she said. She would not elaborate.

&uot;We understand there is a considerable amount of anxiety in the community, as well as with our employees, and we appreciate the support the community (has) been demonstrating through continued patience and understanding of the sensitivities involved in a business decision of this magnitude,&uot; DeShields said in a prepared statement.

&uot;As soon as we are authorized to release any additional information, we will be announcing it in our usual manner, that is, to our employees first, then to the community.&uot;

DeShields said IP anticipates completing the sale by the end of this calendar year.