The Watermill Group Acquires Environmental Paper Producer Manistique Papers

LEXINGTON, MA—April 17, 2012—The Watermill Group, a strategy-driven private investment firm, has received approval to acquire Manistique Papers, the only company in North America producing high-value uncoated printing and writing paper exclusively from 100-percent recycled fiber. The purchase agreement was finalized following an auction and confidential bidding process.

Manistique enhances the company’s investment portfolio of environmental paper manufacturers, which also includes FutureMark Paper, the leading recycled coated paper producer in North America. With this acquisition, Watermill brings together leaders in 100-percent recycled paper in both the coated and uncoated markets and creates the most comprehensive line of recycled printing paper products in North America, representing nearly 300,000 tons of recycled paper per year.

The acquisition significantly expands Watermill’s footprint in sustainable paper manufacturing and positions the firm to deepen the value it delivers to Manistique’s and FutureMark’s customers, employees and investors.

“Over the past three to five years, sustainability has moved from a corporate nice-to-have to a corporate must-have, especially among Fortune 500s,” said Steven Karol, founder and managing partner at The Watermill Group. “This development is reflected in the success of our FutureMark investment, which has leveraged its unrivaled environmental position to significantly outperform competitors in a declining sector.

“We’ll use the strategies proven at FutureMark to revitalize and grow Manistique, building a stronger employer for the local community, driving new investor value by leading the high-value market for sustainable paper and creating a wider assortment of environmental paper products for our Fortune 500 customers.”

Manistique has a 72-acre manufacturing site in Manistique, MI, that can produce up to 500 tons of recycled pulp per day and approximately 130,000 tons per year of uncoated, 100-percent recycled paper.

“Manistique Papers will benefit greatly from The Watermill Group’s financial stability, operational expertise and experience in environmental paper,” said Kelly George, president and CEO at mBank, the lead lender and facilitator in the sale. “We appreciate the Watermill team’s creative strategies for revitalizing Manistique and the commitment they’ve shown to the company, which is an important employer in our community.”

To maximize synergies between Manistique and FutureMark, Watermill will run both organizations as sister companies under a unified management structure led by current FutureMark President and CEO Steve Silver. While unified management will ensure strategic alignment and close cooperation between the businesses in the marketplace, each company will be separately owned and operated.

Steve Silver, who will lead both Manistique and FutureMark, commented, “We believe we can help bring new value and opportunity to Manistique’s operation while expanding FutureMark’s leadership in environmental paper. As reflected by our success with FutureMark, which saw revenues climb 15 percent in a declining market last year, we’ve found a business model for the paper industry that works, and we’re eager to apply this strategy to Manistique while allowing both organizations to flourish as separate, focused operations. The customers of each operation will now have a much wider array of environmental papers to choose from.”

Each company holds a unique position in the paper industry: Manistique Papers is the only North American company making high-value uncoated printing and writing paper exclusively from 100-percent recycled fiber; and FutureMark Paper is the only North American company making 100-percent recycled coated publication paper.