A few lines in business news last week marked the emergence of a new powerhouse in Canada’s forestry sector, as a company called Paper Excellence officially gobbled up Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products.
After 15 years of buying up Canadian pulp, paper and lumber mills, Paper Excellence is now the largest producer of paper pulp in the country, with about 20 per cent of all mill capacity — 50 per cent bigger than its closest rival, Canfor, according to data from pulp-market analysts TTOBMA.
But for such a major player, Paper Excellence is remarkably quiet about the inner workings of its business.
Who exactly runs the company? Who is Jackson Wijaya, the elusive founder and CEO? How did it come into the billions of dollars to fund its acquisitions, and what does it plan to do with nearly 22 million hectares of Canadian forest it now manages — an area four times the size of Nova Scotia?
The answers are hugely important for one of Canada’s most iconic natural resources, its immense tracts of forest.
For Paper Excellence, the story is straightforward.
“Jackson Wijaya established Paper Excellence … with a dream to build a strong business in the pulp and paper industry in the Americas and Europe,” the company said in a statement to CBC and five other media outlets last week. “His goal has been, and is, to create and develop a healthy and sustainable business.”
But a months-long investigation by CBC News, in collaboration with Canadian and international media partners as part of a wider look at the global forestry industry by 40 media outlets under the umbrella of the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, has found that the reality and the rhetoric often don’t align.
The people behind or associated with Paper Excellence appear to have a