International Paper to Remain in Memphis

By Andy Meek

It looks like International Paper won’t have a political fight on its hands after all. The company has decided on trying to complete a deal with local economic development that would include incentives to help IP keep and expand its headquarters presence here. Those incentives would include multiple 15-year tax freezes on new and existing buildings, a more palatable proposition than a 30-year tax freeze that it looked at one point like the company was interested in, according to sources.

An Economic Development Growth Engine Board meeting was expected next week to vote on the project.

Shelby County Commissioner Mike Ritz said the company would be seeking a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes benefit on “a good number of pieces of real estate” but not on IP’s corporate airplanes.

“They worked it out, like we’d hoped they would,” Ritz said. “There was just no chance they’d get past 15 years with the County Commission.”

In other IP-related news, the company is selling the building products division of Temple-Inland Inc. for $750 million in cash to Georgia-Pacific LLC.

The assets in the sale include 16 manufacturing plants that make particleboard, fiberboard and gypsum wallboard as well as five solid wood mills. International Paper CEO John Faraci said the assets and division are not a part of IP¹s core strategy but have value. International Paper expects to complete the sale in the first quarter of 2013 and the company intends to use the money from the sale to reduce its debt.

International Paper bought Temple-Inland, of Austin, Texas, in a $4.5 billion transaction that began in late 2011 and was completed in February.

The announcement Thursday, Dec. 13, caps a busy week for the global paper and packaging company headquartered in Memphis.

Senior reporter Bill Dries contributed to this report.