People Are Corporations

By prompting people like Lynn Tilton to decide that “enough is enough.”

Well, to be honest, as a neighbor tells it, Lynn Tilton is responsible for the rescue of the paper mill in Gorham, NH because her father came to her in a dream and said that taking the two million dollars from the settlement of her sex discrimination law suit and retiring early was the wrong way to go.

Lynn Tilton, Chief Executive Officer, Patriarch Partners
Lynn Tilton, Chief Executive Officer, Patriarch Partners

Lynn Tilton herself says:

One night, on vacation in Costa Rica, she woke suddenly. “I was laying there in this hotel room, and I saw my father and my Mayan teacher very vividly,” she explains. “They said this was not what was planned for me. I said, ‘Why did I go through this path, to empty myself out of any needs or material longings, only to be sent back to New York to be a businessperson?’ And the answer was: You’re not capable of leading until nothing can hold you back. Get your ass back to New York. So I got up in the middle of the night and left.”

So, she founded Patriarch Partners in 2000 and claims,

Since its inception, Patriarch, through its managed funds, has bought more than 150 companies, and in so doing has saved over 250,000 jobs. Patriarch’s platform includes a broad range of industrial concerns including Dura Automotive, American LaFrance, Denali, and MD Helicopters, in addition to iconic American brands such as Rand McNally, Spiegel Catalogs and Stila Cosmetics. Under Ms. Tilton’s leadership, Patriarch has become the largest woman-owned business in America with companies in its platform employing more than 120,000 employees.

Does Ms. Tilton have a gripe? Not about Willard. After all, it was his ilk that provided the incentive to do something else and prove him wrong. She’s pissed as Obama.

“Look, I am the largest female business owner in this country,” she says, coming out from behind the rack in a Herve Leger gown. “I own 74 midsize businesses, and Obama has not once called me into the White House on these issues.” More offensive, Tilton claims, as a female stylist reaches into the bodice of the dress to plump up her cleavage, the president has borrowed language from her articles. “I mean actually lifting pieces,” she says. “Literally, I can give you paragraphs. I got like twenty e-mails after his speech, when he was like, ‘We need to be innovators and the makers of things.’ ”

Doesn’t she know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Or that great minds think alike? Or that in the current climate, failure gets more respect than success?

Maybe Tilton is a bit flamboyant. As New York Magazine reports:

“My job is to make men better men,” Tilton often says, and that includes teaching lessons to the ones who try to hold her back. Like Claudio Gemme, the CEO of Ansaldo Sistemi Industriali, a producer of electric motors and generators, who failed to treat Tilton with proper respect when she first came to tour the soon-to-be-bankrupt factory in Genoa in 2005.

“He was like, ‘In Italy, we like-a the women,’ ” she says. “ ‘We like-a them in the bedroom. We like-a them in the kitchen. Not in the boardroom.’ I’m thinking, I’m going to buy this company, and I’m going to fire these arrogant men.” A week later, at the bankruptcy auction, when Gemme, who had been at the company for 32 years, failed to provide essential paperwork, Tilton grabbed him by the knot of his tie and, in a boardroom full of people, shoved him against the wall. “You’ve showed me no respect and no appreciation,” she hissed. “Today I can give your company away. So when I say ‘Step right,’ you step right. When I say ‘Step left,’ you step left. Do you understand that dance?” Then she stormed out.

“She’s got balls,” a trustee said.

Gemme loosened his collar. “Three.”

“Now we get along great,” Tilton says with a laugh. “He loves me. He would marry me in a second.” Gemme, she says, was afraid Patriarch would sell the company for parts. But with their backing, she says, Ansaldo Sistemi Industriali has turned back to profitability. For his part, Gemme confirms that “everything happened exactly like Lynn says it did,” and mentions that they now have a marketing slogan that stresses “the power of three: ‘Innovation, Intellect, and Integrity,’ ” and a new logo, an A with three balls.

Lynn Tilton is into basics. The Gorham paper mill has been converted from producing newsprint to making toilet paper.

But while demand for other paper products was dropping, U.S. tissue consumption was on the way up, increasing an estimated 7.2% between 2001 and 2011, according to Vertical. And tissue has another advantage for domestic manufacturers: Unlike other paper, tissue paper isn’t economical to ship from overseas because of its bulk.

Hoping to tap that growing market, Patriarch Partners LLC, a New York private-equity firm, bought the Gorham mill in May 2011, paying $2 million, according to county deed records. Patriarch said it plans to invest $60 million in the mill, including paying for special machines to craft fine tissue.

No thanks to Willard. Though, given his penchant for claiming other people’s success, he might well want to associate himself with the tigress from the Bronx.
I’d like to see him try.

Past and future are meeting in the New Hampshire and Maine north country.

Asset managers are now a permanent feature of the American pulp and paper industry. NewPage is owned by Cerberus Capital, the notorious buyout giant chaired by Bush 2 Treasury Secretary John Snow and J. Danforth Quayle. Verso Paper, once the coated paper division of International Paper, is an Apollo Management portfolio company. Georgia-Pacific was acquired by Koch Industries in 2005. PE firm Madison Dearborn bought Boise Cascade in 2004, then sold its paper and packaging business to Aldabra 2 Acquisition, a “blank check” company created for the deal by Terrapin Partners.

The Old Town Fuel & Fiber mill, sixty miles downstream from Millinocket, was acquired by Tilton’s Patriarch Partners in late 2008 after its previous investor, Red Shield, went bankrupt. She revamped the old pulp mill to produce bio-butanol, a jet fuel derived from wood waste, and she flew up for a tour, cameras for her Sundance Channel reality show trailing along as she rhapsodized about woman-power and rebuilding American industry.


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Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."