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Biz Buzz: Beer and business collaboration

On a brewery theme, Jack Pine Brewery — which has a tap house in Baxter — is partnering with The Classic Grill’s opening at Madden’s resort.

This Saturday, April 5, Jack Pine Brewery beers will accompany a five-course menu at The Classic Grill.

The shake-up at Wausau Paper continues as a new CEO is installed who is in favor with investors.

This week, Wausau announced a change at CEO with the resignation of President and CEO Henry “Hank” Newell.

Newell’s resignation was effective immediately along with his resignation from the board of directors after a brief transition. And Wausau reported Board Chairman and former CEO Thomas Howatt will also retire before the 2014 annual shareholders’ meeting.

“Both have been in a public feud with Starboard,” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said of Newell and Howatt. “As recently as last month, Newell and Howatt issued statements condemning Starboard’s public criticism of Wausau as ‘disproportionate and inappropriate.’”

The Associated Press reported Newell is being replaced by a CEO favored by investors interested in selling the company.

The Journal Sentinel noted Wausau Paper has been “under public pressure for three years from a New York hedge fund, Starboard Value LP, which already has forced the 115-year-old company to close or sell all of its Wisconsin paper mills and all its timberlands in the state.”

Michael Burandt, 68, was appointed interim CEO and will be the next chairman. Wausau reported it will conduct a search for a permanent CEO replacement.

The Journal Sentinel reported Burandt was a Starboard nominee to the Wausau Paper in 2012.

“Going forward, we will continue to pursue our tissue-focused strategy in order to drive growth, increase earnings, return cash to shareholders and create long-term value,” Burandt stated in a news release from Wausau. “... (Mr. Burandt) expects to conduct a detailed review of all aspects of the company’s operations and the impact on first-quarter performance of cold weather, competitive pricing pressure in support product categories, professional fees associated with proxy and advisory services, and other factors.”

The company reported it expects to provide further updates to shareholders with its first-quarter earnings announcement.

“Wausau Paper has become the most high profile casualty in a world of rapid digital and economic change. Under pressure from Starboard, Wausau last year sold its paper mills in Mosinee and Rhinelander as well as another mill in Minnesota. In the previous year, it shut its oldest mill in Brokaw, the mill that founded the company in 1899,” the Journal Sentinel reported. “Even those moves were not enough to satisfy Starboard. According to the public statements from the hedge fund, Wausau Paper should leave Wisconsin altogether, closing its headquarters in the state, and even consider selling the entire company.”

Wausau reported the board of directors is currently in settlement discussions with Starboard Value regarding issues Starboard raised in public correspondence, but that no agreement has been reached.

In an earnings report, Wausau reported losses in 2013 but anticipated a small profit in 2014.

Wausau Paper closed the Brainerd mill in 2013, ceasing production a year ago in April. The mill employed 134. Just two years earlier, Wausau Paper invested $27 million to convert the Brainerd mill to make technical specialty grade paper, such as masking tape and packaging for the food industry.

In March of 2013, Wausau Paper signed a letter of intent to sell its Wisconsin specialty paper mills for about $130 million. The mill in Brainerd was not part of that deal.

Wausau Paper shut down its Wisconsin mills in Brokaw and sold facilities in Rhinelander and Mosinee.

The mill in northeast Brainerd began as the Northwest Paper Co., in the first years of the 20th century with efforts including those Charles A. Weyerhaeuser and R. D. Musser. The paper company bought the Northern Water Power Co. on the banks of the river and the C.F. Kindred Dam in northeast Brainerd.

Wausau Paper bought the Brainerd mill from Missota Paper Co. for $9.6 million. Missota purchased the former Potlatch paper mill for $4.44 million. When Potlatch closed the paper mill in 2002, it put about 600 people out of work. Potlatch sold its paper division and the Cloquet mill to Sappi Limited, a South African-based company for $480 million.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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