Ex-mill owner bankrupt: Smurfit-Stone looks for protection

Published 2:44 am Wednesday, January 28, 2009

By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., former owner of the Brewton container mill, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, but company officials said retiree benefits will continue to be paid normally for now.
Smurfit-Stone sold the property and assets of its Brewton mill to Georgia-Pacific in late 2007 as part of its efforts to shore up finances in the wake of growing debt, but the current credit crisis made that even more difficult, company officials said.
Monday's filing will allow Smurfit-Stone to restructure its debt, and company officials said operations will continue as normal.
Moore said the global credit crisis contributed to the company's financial problems.
In a letter to retirees, Moore said the status of the company's pension plan has not changed, and 401(k) assets in the company's retirement plan are held in a separate trust protected against creditors.
But the company also said there could be changes in the pension plan in the future, although changes could not be applied retroactively.
Anyone with questions about retirement with Smurfit-Stone should call 877-264-9638, or visit the company Web site at www.smurfit.com.
At the time of Smurfit's sale to GP, employees who were rehired at the mill received GP benefits, but they had the option to keep their retirement with Smurfit-Stone or transfer it to GP, said GP spokesman Jason Daniel. “That was a personal decision for each employee,” Daniel said.
GP's Brewton mill does still do business with Smurfit-Stone, although Daniel declined to elaborate on any contracts or the type of business the companies do with each other.
After Smurfit's filing on Monday, Standard &Poor's downgraded the company's debt to the lowest level the ratings company offers.
Lisa Tindell contributed to this report.

Email newsletter signup