American 'turnaround' company eyes Tolko paper mill in The Pas

CBC News has learned the name of the company behind a letter of intent to buy the Tolko paper mill in The Pas. Sources familiar with negotiations on the possible purchase say New York-based American Industrial Acquisition Corporation (AIAC) is the company interested in buying the plant.

New York-based American Industrial Acquisition Corporation interested in buying Manitoba plant

A New York-based company has signed an expression of interest for the Tolko paper mill, pictured above, in The Pas, Man. (CBC News)

CBC News has learned the name of the company behind a letter of intent to buy the Tolko paper mill in The Pas, Man.

Sources familiar with negotiations on the possible purchase say New York-based American Industrial Acquisition Corporation (AIAC) is the company interested in buying the plant.

The company is privately held and does not publish its financial statements or balance sheets. According to AIAC's LinkedIn profile, the company is "founded on the principal (sic) of acquiring under-performing companies and helping those companies to survive and thrive."

The northern Manitoba paper mill faces closure in early December after B.C.based Tolko Industries signalled its intention this past summer to close the plant and lay off the workers.

Tolko workers in The Pas promise pay cut to save plant

There has been a series of negotiations involving AIAC,  Tolko Industries, and the three unions representing nearly 300 workers at the plant. The province of Manitoba has senior staff and politicians following the proceedings.

Last week significant majorities of the members of Unifor locals 1403 and 342 voted in favour of taking a 10 per cent pay cut if the sale was concluded. The cut has been agreed to only if AIAC buys the plant.

A spokesperson for Unifor told CBC News the union had "no comment on on-going negotiations between the parties but was hopeful the pieces would fall into place." 

The town of The Pas has offered some incentives to a potential buyer, including some tax relief.

Company record hard to track

AIAC's own website has no links other than an email address for information and a banner headline saying "Turnaround Industrial Investment and Management."

Requests to the company for an interview have not been returned.

Dun and Bradstreet, an international debt and data consultancy, profiled AIAC and describe it as a company started in 1996, with current sales nearing $1 billion US.

Several companies across the world identify themselves as subsidiaries of AIAC. Some of those include Arnprior Aerospace in Ontario, Eurofoil, a metals company with facilities in France, Germany and Luxembourg, and Avara Pharmaceutical Services in Norwalk, Conn. 

AIAC acquisition in New York ends in company closure 

Apparently AIAC's purchase of a metal coating plant in DeWitt, New York wasn't the best example of a 'turnaround.'

The firm bought General Super Plating in May of 2014, but a year later the approximately 95 workers at the facility lost their jobs and their union is still chasing AIAC for lost vacation pay and wages.

"They basically bled the assets and left the workers in a lurch," said Michael Rusinek, a union representative with IUE-CWA (International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers — Communication Workers of America).

Rusinek says he has little faith in AIAC.

"I don't trust them. They come in and tell a nice story about the companies they've turned around...then they destroyed it (General Super Plating) and walked away with no concerns," Rusinek said.

Rusinek says his union and federal government officials are still trying to get back the lost wages and vacation pay from the company.

CBC News asked the Manitoba government about its comfort level with AIAC as a potential buyer for Tolko.

Among the questions; does the government of Manitoba have any concerns that American Industrial Acquisition Corporation is from another country? 

Does the government have concerns this company isn't actually a forestry or paper producing firm? 

What assurances is Manitoba seeking in return for any assistance the province might provide?

The response from a government spokesperson; "We are not able to comment on the specifics of ongoing discussions. Our government is committed to fostering  economic development in Northern Manitoba that provides long-term and sustainable opportunity for communities."

Flin Flon NDP MLA Tom Lindsey was hoping to hear more specifics from the Manitoba government.

"The union guys are in there fighting for their jobs. The town is stepping up [with incentives]. My question is; where is the government?" Lindsey said.