Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Paper firm rejects office complex bid

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - International Paper has rejected the $4.2 million offer of William Rentschler's investor group for the company's Knightsbridge office complex.

Rentschler, a Hamilton small-business consultant and freelance writer, was the high bidder at last week's auction of the sprawling complex on 57 acres just south of downtown Hamilton.

But he said International Paper told him that the bid was too low. The 366,000-square-foot building, which had been the regional headquarters for Champion International until International Paper bought it two years ago and then closed it, will remain empty until the company finds a buyer willing to pay an acceptable price.

"It's a great disappointment," Rentschler said. "I think it's a combination of the rotten economy, the war and the unease over terrorism that's holding everybody back."

He said his group wants to talk with International Paper officials.

"We're going to see if anything can be worked out," Rentschler said. "We're not just going to fade away."

Bob Stegemann, spokesman for International Paper, said the company doesn't comment on individual prospective deals.

"We don't have a contract for the complex right now," he said. "We continue to hope to sell it."

Hamilton Mayor Donald Ryan said he wasn't surprised that Rentschler's bid was turned down.

"If I were IP, I wouldn't accept a $4.2 million bid for a building worth $50 million to $100 million depending on who you talk to," he said.

He had expressed disappointment last week when a large corporation didn't offer the high bid at the auction. City officials will try to talk with International Paper executives about their plans for the complex. Ryan said the bid rejection reopens the possibility of a large corporation buying the complex.

E-mail skemme@enquirer.com

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