By James Vassallo
The Daily News
New Skeena Forest Products’ unnamed white knight, “Investor A”, has been identified as The Woodbridge Company Ltd.
Woodbridge is the personal investment vehicle for the family of Ken Thomson, chairman of the Globe and Mail.
Woodbridge is the largest Canadian private investment firm with a net worth of over $20 billion. They hold large stakes in Bell Globemedia ?Â which includes CTV ? the Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts and have a 20-year partnership with Abitibi Consolidated, the largest newsprint maker in the world.
“This is the highest quality pool of private capital in Canada, bar none,” said Dan Veniez, New Skeena president and CEO. “They’re giving us a vote of confidence, New Skeena a vote of confidence and the Northwest a vote of confidence.”
Veniez describes Thomson as down to earth, a great philanthropist and art collector, and one of Canada’s greatest investors.
New Skeena is expected to have a binding agreement with the investor in the next few days and a definitive final agreement will follow.
He said that it was the focus on fundamentals, fibre supply markets, marketing and other factors that attracted Woodbridge to the operation. The investor was particularly impressed with the skill and dedication of New Skeena’s people, said Veniez.
On the other hand, the company was attracted to Woodbridge due to their extra diligence and long-term investment strategy.
“They’re not in this for a quick buck,” Veniez said. "They’re the furthest thing from that kind of investor or investment approach.
“It’s the antithesis of the short-term vulture.”
As such, the company knows their new investors will expect results.
“We can’t just think happy times are here again,” he said. “We have to perform and dig in.” With success, said Veniez, there will be shared profits for employees and support from Woodbridge for New Skeena’s long-term investment needs.
The once troubled forestry operation is expected to start hiring people and sending them back to work as early as July, Watson Island pulp mill some 350 temporary jobs are expected to be available for contractors and service providers to assist with start-up activities.
Once the mill is operational in early November, 354 permanent jobs are estimated. Salaries and wages over the next six months are expected to amount $43.9 million, with indirect job creation amounting to an additional $77.7 million.
The annual total impact on the Northwest from New Skeena’s startup could be in excess of $150 million.
Today at 3 p.m., New Skeena will meet with the business community at an open meeting held at the Crest to announce the public details.
“We wanted to talk to the business people,” said Lorne Byzyna, New Skeena general manager.
“Talk about our timeline for getting back into business.”
New Skeena will also meet with city council tonight and the district of Port Edward tomorrow afternoon to talk about Woodbridge and the state of negotiations with the company.
“The city’s extremely encouraged by the quality of this investor,” said Mayor Herb Pond.
“They have a good track record, financial record.”
The fact that they’re interested in Prince Rupert is something for the world to take notice of, said Pond.
Amidst those discussions may soon be a discussion of back taxes and money owed to the city.
“There’s lots of steps to take place,” said Pond, “but the number one goal is to get the pulp mill operating again.”
Byzyna said he hopes that the company will have funding in place soon, however the deal still needs to be approved by the court and creditors so the company can exit CCAA proceedings. He estimates the pulp mill in Rupert will be open by November, and the saw mill in Terrace a little sooner then that.
“I don’t think we could have done better [then Woodbridge] no matter what we did,” he said.