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These were the words of Deutsche Bank's Mark Wilde when the announcement of Rock Tenn acquiring Smurfit Stone was made a week ago Sunday. Mark gave me permission to use them again and here I have.

Fifteen years ago, Rock Tenn was the ugly duckling of the North American pulp and paper industry. Operating primarily in the backwaters of recycled carton board and its downstream conversion processes, the big players were condescendingly respectful. From an outsiders point of view, Rock Tenn's first bold step was the acquisition of the paperboard manufacturing and converting assets of Gulf States, headquartered in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Us outsiders held our breath as Rock Tenn took on its first integrated manufacturing facility in Demopolis, Alabama. I would have to admit I was a sceptic.
 
Then, Southern Container of Hauppauge, New York, came along and said "buy me!" I have to admit I was excited for them then, for I had served in various independent engineer roles for Southern's new recycled containerboard complex at Solvay, New York -- I knew what they had there.

In the meantime, Smurfit acquired Stone and became Smurfit Stone. And although I know many great people in this organization at the mill level, including many mill executives, one had to wonder what in the world was going on. The largest clue matters were amiss was the failure of Smurfit to consolidate headquarters functions in one location--they kept the Creve Coeur (suburban St. Louis) location as well as the Chicago location. No matter how they may have justified this to themselves internally, to any outsider looking in, this was a symptom of bigger problems. These were verified when Smurfit Stone filed for bankruptcy protection.

Now, Rock Tenn, correctly, says headquarters will be Norcross, Georgia, where Rock Tenn has been headquartered for many years already. Headquarters is headquarters and all bodies can only have one head.

Congratulations, Rock Tenn. You have shown us all how to thrive and survive in the 21st Century.

A Consultant Connection Member at your service: HurterConsult Inc. - Consulting Engineers for Pulp, Paper, Fiberboard & Cellulosic Biofuels from Nonwood Fibers, Wood, Wastepaper & Purchased Pulp | Resource, Market & Feasibility Studies, Engineering Solutions & Technical Advisory Services | Bob Hurter (613) 749-2181



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