Bill Kirby wasn’t sure what to think at first. He’d been brought to the fourth floor of the New England Paper Tube plant in Pawtucket, R.I. It was a cold day in November 2014, and the only activity inside the block-size red-brick building was two men taking machines apart for scrap. “I knew that there were paper tubes in toilet paper,” says Kirby, a career banker who most recently spent 15 years at UPS Capital, a financial division of the shipper.
Founded 108 years ago, New England Paper Tube makes what its name says. After three decades of losses brought on by changing technology and foreign competition, the family-owned business had been placed in the care of a court-appointed receiver—a form of bankruptcy. Kirby had recently helped turn around another small family-run company, so the receiver, a friend, asked him to take a look at NEPT.