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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bankruptcy judge finalizes sale of Ponderay Newsprint

Todd Behrend, former manager of the Ponderay Newsprint Mill, gives a tour of the closed facility on Dec. 17, 2020, in Usk. The mill owners are seeking a $400,000 grant from the state to reopen the mill.   (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

A federal bankruptcy judge gave final approval Thursday to the sale of the shuttered Ponderay Newsprint mill in Usk to Allrise Capital Inc.

Several attorneys joined U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frederick Corbit on a conference call during which he approved bankruptcy trustee John Munding’s request to formalize the sale following an auction last month.

Allrise Capital, based in Irvine, Calif., won the auction with a bid of $18.1 million, which bested the last offer of the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, which offered $17.5 million for the plant that closed last year after its previous owners filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Christopher Varallo, an attorney with Witherspoon Kelley of Spokane, represented Allrise at the hearing. He said he was brought in to help finalize the sale but he does not know when Allrise officials plan to reopen the mill, which was one of the largest employers in Pend Oreille County when it closed.

Chris Bell, managing broker for NAI Black, which helped market the mill, previously said Allrise officials talked about retooling the plant to make cardboard used in shipping and to use any excess power for mining cryptocurrency.

But neither Varallo nor Munding would comment about what they know of plans for the plant or when Allrise might begin hiring workers. The plant previously employed about 150 people.

“I just don’t have any information on that,” Varallo said. “At this point, we are just trying to move forward on finalizing the sale.”

Munding said the sale should close within about 20 days.

“We are just looking forward to having the sale completed,” he said.

The paper mill previously was owned jointly by Lake Superior Forest Products, a subsidiary of Quebec-based Resolute Forest Products, and five major U.S. publishers.

Up until the auction April 23, negotiations had failed to find a new owner for the 927-acre property, which consists of 29 buildings and storage facilities and is adjacent to the Pend Oreille Valley Railroad and Pend Oreille River.