Staff at a closure-threatened Aberdeen papermill were today due to meet bosses to discuss their future after talks to find a buyer collapsed.
Almost 500 workers at the historic Stoneywood Mill have been informed by letter that discussions with a potential buyer had ceased and talks with a management buyout team would move forward instead.
Politicians said they were disappointed the deal collapsed but expressed hope that a management buyout would save the 300-year-old mill.
Under the proposed buyout, existing bosses would acquire a large part, or all, of the company from parent firm Sequana.
In March, the bidder was identified, with the deal expected to be concluded in mid-April.
There are currently around 480 staff working at the mill.
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A spokesman for the joint administrators FRP Advisory LLP said: “The joint administrators have begun discussions with a management buyout team (MBO) after negotiations with a preferred bidder ended without a sale.
“Discussions will now be progressed with the MBO team, Scottish Enterprise and other interested parties over the coming weeks, to explore whether a sale can be secured.
“In the meantime, it remains business as usual and the plant continues to operate.”
Shauna Wright, Unite’s regional officer, said they will meet bosses tomorrow to discuss the plans.
She added: “It’s disappointing after all the hard work and effort put in by everyone.
“It’s welcome news that the management are now looking to do a buyout, so fingers crossed. We support the management buyout going forward.”
Politicians said they hoped the future of the mill would be secured.
MSP for Aberdeen Donside, Mark McDonald, said: “Obviously it’s very disappointing to learn that the preferred bidder has fallen through.
“But, at the same time, there is hope that a management buyout will be the way forward.
“The level of support being provided for the management buyout is one of a good order, and hopefully Scottish Enterprise will be able to support this option and that the process will be able to be completed in order, and secure the future of the site and the workforce.”
North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald stressed that Stoneywood remained a “robust, successful and profitable” business.
He said: “I raised the possibility of a management buyout at the first meeting I attended at the mill, back in January, and local managers and union representatives acknowledged that might be a way forward.
“I hope SNP Ministers will now explore this option and give a management buyout at Stoneywood all the support it needs to succeed.”
Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn said: “The Scottish Government, alongside Scottish Enterprise, will continue to work with the administrator, the management team and our partners to explore all options to secure the best possible outcome for this business and its employees.
“Throughout this process, I have spoken with the administrator, Unite and the local management.
“Tomorrow I will be meeting them in Aberdeen where I will once again pledge the full support of the Scottish Government and our agencies.”