A new era for one of the Charleston region’s oldest industrial employers begins at the start of business Wednesday.
MeadWestvaco Corp. will become part of the newly formed WestRock Corp. to kick off the second half of 2015, the last formal step in its merger with former rival Rock-Tenn Co.
The companies announced in late January that they would combine to create a $16 billion a year global packaging business. Their shareholders approved the deal last week.
Norcross, Ga.-based Rock-Tenn’s chief executive officer, Steve Voorhees, will take the reins at WestRock. Longtime MeadWestvaco CEO John Luke Jr. will become nonexecutive chairman.
The merged company will have its principal headquarters in Richmond, Va., and will have operating offices outside of Atlanta. Its shares are to begin trading Wednesday morning on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol WRK.
Until now, MeadWestvaco had been run by a Luke heir for six generations, ever since William Luke started Piedmont Pulp & Paper Co. in the late 1880s. The business was incorporated in 1899 as West Virginia Pulp & Paper Co., which morphed into Westvaco Corp. in 1969 and then MeadWestvaco in 2002, following the buyout of rival Mead Corp.
The company planted its roots in the Lowcountry economy in 1937, when it opened a paper mill on the Cooper River. It sold that factory and some ancillary businesses about seven years ago.
MeadWestvaco’s land and real estate arm is based in the emerging Nexton mixed-use community in Summerville, and its fast-growing MWV Specialty Chemicals division is headquartered on Virginia Avenue in North Charleston.
The Rock-Tenn merger isn’t expected to affect a proposal to spin off the latter business into a separate, publicly traded company. In the interim, the locally based division won’t be changing its identity.
“We will continue to operate as MWV Specialty Chemicals until we transition to a new name,” spokeswoman Rebecca Vaughan said Tuesday.
MWV Community Development and Land Management will adapt to the new moniker. The real estate unit will still be run by Ken Seeger, president.
“The company’s name is changing to WestRock, and we will refer to ourselves that way,” spokeswoman Jennifer Howard said in a written statement Tuesday. “And our land and community development business will continue to operate as it has, with the same leadership.”
Shares of MeadWestvaco fell slightly on the company’s last day of trading as a standalone business. MWV edged down 28 cents to close at $47.19. Rock-Tenn’s stock also declined, falling 73 cents to $60.20.
Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.