The Berkshire Eagle, December 5th, 2009

By December 5, 2009News

Call it a done deal
The Berkshire Eagle, December 5th, 2009

By Scott Stafford
Updated: 12/05/2009 08:18:40 AM EST

Saturday, Dec. 05
LEE — A major deal completed, it’s time for a new paper company in this town to get back to work.
The newly formed paper company, Onyx Specialty Papers Inc., has taken possession of two local paper mills, a warehouse, and the operations at Willow Mill formerly run by MeadWestVaco.

Onyx Specialty Papers bought the 120,000-square-foot Willow Mill, the 140,000-square-foot Laurel Mill, and the 150,000-square-foot Morart Warehouse from MeadWestVaco. For the three buildings and 40 acres of land surrounding them, the price tag was $3.72 million.

Onyx also purchased the specialty paper business MeadWestVaco, which had been had been operating in that location in Lee since 1957.

On the employee front, the transfer of ownership has been relatively smooth.

All 122 former mill employees have transferred to the new company and one additional person was hired, said the company’s president, Patricia Begrowicz.

The deal began formulating in Begrowicz’s and Onyx Vice President Chris Mathews’ minds in 2007, when MeadWestVaco decided to sell off its specialty paper division.

Suitors on the run

There was some interest in the operation from several parties, but when the economy tanked last year, all prospective buyers disappeared. At the time, Begrowicz was general manager and Mathews was vice president of the Lee plant.

When the other buyers disappeared, it became apparent that their idea to buy the business became more urgent.
“All the stars aligned in a way that made it a great opportunity not only for Chris and I, but for our customers, suppliers and employees, all of whom were looking for some stability,” Begrowicz said.

She declined to disclose the total purchase price of the business, but noted that TD Bank was the primary lender in the transaction.

Onyx produces paper products used in other manufactured consumer goods, such as automobile transmissions and decorative laminates. Interprint, the Pittsfield-based laminate company, is one of their customers, Mathews noted.

The transaction was completed on Monday, and Onyx began operating on Tuesday.

Some early nerves

“When we first started talking about it, we were very nervous,” Begrowicz said.

“But because we’d both been working here for years, we already knew all the employees and customers personally, so we knew how well this could work,” Mathews said. “And we’ve had an excellent response from everybody.”

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6241.