LIVE OAK — The former Klausner Lumber One sawmill will have a new owner within 90 days.
Klausner, which shut down March 16, filed for bankruptcy April 30. As part of those proceedings, Asgaard Capital is handling the reorganization and Suwannee County Economic Development Director Jimmy Norris said Tuesday morning that includes a sale of the sawmill within 90 days.
“We’ve struggled through the last few years of working with Klausner, but what I want you all to think about now as we have been instructed is there is no more Klausner,” Norris told the Board of County Commissioners at its morning meeting. “Get it out of your mind. Quit saying it. It doesn’t exist as far as we’re concerned.”
Norris said fears that there would be a struggle to find a new owner for the sawmill are unfounded. Rather, a new owner will emerge through the auction of the site in less than 90 days, likely by no later than the middle of August.
According to Board Chairman Len Stapleton, multiple companies are interested with 10-12 reaching out and discussing the facility with Asgaard’s Michael Freeman, the chief restructuring officer for the bankruptcy. Norris said those companies are from the U.S. and Canada as well as overseas.
“They will be visiting Suwannee County and I hope we are welcoming and are positive about the asset we do have there,” Norris added.
Stapleton said he and Norris took a tour of the sawmill Friday with Freeman and he left that tour impressed.
“I left there feeling a lot better than just riding by and seeing a big metal building,” Stapleton said. “That place is impressive. It is high tech. We have an asset here.
“A comment from Mr. Freeman is that some of the folks that have looked at the facility, it is or very close to being the No. 1 facility in the country as far as the capabilities of it.”
Norris added that Freeman said the interest from the companies is directly related to the capabilities of the sawmill.
“Like you said, it is one of if not the most advanced mill in North America,” Norris said. “We can partner with the new company that buys it and make this a great, great day, a great year, a great future.”
While the sale will be completed by the middle of August, Norris said from discussions with some of the interested companies it could take as little as an additional six to eight weeks for the mill to be back up and running.
Stapleton added the bids for the sawmill could be in the range of $100-200 million.
“We’re going to do everything we can to expedite that and be a good partner with anybody that wants to come here,” Stapleton said about a future owner, adding he’s looking forward to a sawmill that isn’t being shut down with layoffs every few months with employees fearing that they would be losing their jobs.
Norris said while he doesn’t know all the interested companies, some of the companies involved in the process are also looking at the expansion planned for the facility and are including that into their plan should they win the bid.
“If we can get this place up and running in a few months, that’s going to be a great, great impact on our community,” Norris said.
“There are a lot of people around the world interested in bringing this place back to life.”
That was encouraging news to Don Hale, the commissioner from District 1 that includes the sawmill site.
According to Klausner’s bankruptcy filing, there are more than 200 known creditors and that funds from the sale of the assets will be available to be distributed to unsecured creditors.
The county is a secured creditor, Norris said, and the county will receive the owed ad valorem taxes that were not paid this past year following the sale.
“I was kind of embarrassed at one time,” said Clyde Fleming, the District 2 commissioner. “Maybe I can be proud again.”