By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON - A group of investors led by William Rentschler, a Hamilton man who is a small-business consultant and a freelance writer, was the high bidder at Wednesday's auction of International Paper's Knightsbridge office complex.
The bid was $4.2 million, almost $8 million below what two Chicago businessmen offered for the huge complex last year before backing out of the deal.
International Paper has five days to accept or reject the Rentschler bid.
The auction, held in what had been the cafeteria of the Knightsbridge complex, drew about 40 spectators and six bidders.
Hamilton officials had hoped a major corporation would get the 366,000-square-foot building on 57 acres just south of downtown Hamilton.
"I was disappointed for the city of Hamilton," Mayor Donald Ryan said. "It was my hope that a corporate type of company would buy the building and relocate to Hamilton and make Hamilton their corporate headquarters. We all had our hopes up very high. This was Hamilton's opportunity to have something positive happen."
Rentschler, a native of Hamilton who lived in Chicago for 30 years, said his investment group has no definite plans for the complex.
"This is just such an incredible facility," he said. "I'm convinced this is a marvelous buy. I really did not come there with the intention of bidding because I thought it would quickly get too high for us."
Bob Stegemann, spokesman for International Paper, said the company had no comment on the results of the auction, which was conducted by Higgenbotham Auctioneers of Lakeland, Fla.
The auctioneer tried to solicit an opening bid of $20 million. But the bidding opened at $2 million.
Rentschler said if his bid is accepted by International Paper, the complex probably will be owned in name by R.L. Kaiser Co., an investment company in Florida. He would not name his investment partners.
The complex had been regional headquarters for Champion International until International Paper bought the facility two years ago and closed it. The closing was one of a series of economic setbacks for Hamilton that has cost the city 3,000 jobs in recent years.
Ryan and Tim Bigler, Hamilton economic development director, said if Rentschler and his group wind up owning the facility, the city will work with them to market it.
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