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600 jobs in balance as Appleton Coated sale goes to court

COMBINED LOCKS, Wisconsin (From news reports) -- Appleton Coated is in the process of being sold to Industrial Assets, a used machinery dealer based in Los Angeles, and that pending sale raised objections from government officials alarmed at the potential loss of more than 600 jobs.

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and Combined Locks village president John Neumeier filed a joint objection with Outagamie County District Court Branch IV judge Greg Gill Wednesday. The hearing is scheduled for Friday.

In the joint statement, they said "based upon information and belief, it is highly unlikely that (Industrial Assets') intention is to continue the operation of the Appleton Coated, LLC mill on a long-term basis."

"For over 100 years, Appleton Coated has provided good-paying, family-supporting jobs," Nelson said in a released statement. "Allowing additional time by ordering a new auction and allowing for sufficient notice prior to the auction, given the complexity of this transaction, could save hundreds of jobs, avoiding catastrophic financial impacts on local families, businesses, municipal governments and subordinate creditors."

Receiver Michael Polsky accepted Industrial Assets' offer Tuesday in an auction. It was the lone bid. The sale now has to be approved by the court. Objections to the sale were due in court Thursday and the pending sale is scheduled to be finalized Friday.

Appleton Coated, one of the largest employers in Outagamie County and the largest employer and taxpayer in Combined Locks, had been struggling under "burdensome debt." It filed a voluntary state Chapter 128 petition, an alternative to bankruptcy, on Aug. 17. The petition allowed the company to seek a buyer while it continues to operate under supervision of a receiver appointed by the Outagamie County Circuit Court.

The company has been privately owned for the last three years by 10 members of its management team.

Appleton Coated is a manufacturer and distributor of coated, uncoated, specialty and technical papers used by publishers, corporations, high-end commercial printers, textbook publishers, converters and graphic designers. Declining demand at a time of digital communications, excess capacity and price competition in coated and uncoated paper markets were cited as problems.

According to its website description, the buyer, Industrial Assets, "is the nation's largest and most established used machinery dealer." It has offices and warehouses in California, Missouri and Florida, and employs about 200 workers.

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