Temple-Inland

After rejecting a bid in June, Temple-Inland stockholders overwhelmingly approved a $4 billion merger agreement with Memphis-based International Paper during a December meeting.

The U.S. Department of Justice has given International Paper the go-ahead to complete its purchase of Temple-Inland, a corrugated packaging and building products company that employs hundreds of people in Angelina County.

International Paper and Temple-Inland announced in a news release Friday that the Department of Justice had entered into a consent decree with the companies that allows them to proceed with a planned $4 billion merger.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the DOJ that addresses their concerns and preserves the value in the combination of these two fine companies,” International Paper chairman and CEO John Faraci stated in the news release. “As we take the final steps to closing, we look forward to a smooth integration and to realizing the substantial benefits this transaction provides our customers, employees and shareholders.”

The companies stated that they expect to complete the transaction quickly.

It remains to be seen how the merger will affect Temple-Inland’s operations and employees in Diboll. Company officials have not been allowed to talk about the ramifications until the merger is complete.

The companies stated in the news release that, under the terms of the consent decree, the combined company will divest 970,000 tons of containerboard mill capacity within six months. The company plans to sell Temple-Inland’s facilities in Ontario, Calif., and New Johnsonville, Tenn., and International Paper’s facility in Hueneme, Calif.

Previous stories in The Lufkin News have indicated there is large concern among Angelina County employees and economic development officials because Temple-Inland’s division in Diboll is dedicated to building materials — a business IP is no longer in, having switched its focus to the corrugated packing industry. It was Temple’s corrugated packing division, housed in Austin, that made it lucrative for IP to purchase the entire company.

Angelina County Judge Wes Suiter said in a previous article that through conversations with IP officials, he learned idling plants acquired through business ventures is not their common practice. With the shutdown of the Lufkin paper mill and Citation Texas Foundries still lingering, that scenario remains a constant fear, Suiter said.

“In talking with (International Paper officials), through their history they haven’t just come in and shut plants down,” Suiter said. “They’ve operated them until they can find a buyer. I know IP is not in the building products business, but I hope they would look at the impact on our community before they decide to idle it. This could be devastating to us — a loss in jobs, disposable income from employees and tax revenue on the heels of Abitibi and Citation.”

Temple-Inland’s roots began in Diboll as the Southern Pine Lumber Company in the 1890s. Founded by lumberman Thomas Lewis Latane Temple and other partners, Diboll became first and foremost a sawmill town, according to “Land of the Little Angel, A History of Angelina County, Texas.”

Andy Adams’ email address is aadams@lufkindailynews.com.