Comeback trail for Gay: sources

Former Gunns chief John Gay may be returning to the sawmilling business in the state, sources say.
Former Gunns chief John Gay may be returning to the sawmilling business in the state, sources say.
Comeback trail for Gay: sources

TASMANIA could see a John Gay-led resurgence of the state's ailing sawmilling industry, according to industry sources.

Mr Gay, who transformed Gunns into an international timber company during 24 years at the helm, started his working life as a sawmiller.

He was forced to step down as managing director and retire from the company 18 months ago by shareholder pressure and Greg L'Estrange was appointed in his place.

Mr Gay could not be contacted yesterday but it is believed that he is in final negotiations to buy at least two of the mills that Gunns is selling.

The sale deals would end months of speculation that Mr Gay has been planning a comeback to the industry.

It has been suggested that Mr Gay was heading a business consortium buying sawmills around the state.

But he is believed to be acting alone in the purchase of at least the Deloraine mill, which used to be owned by his family, and the Somerset veneer plant.

Former Tasmanian premier and Gunns' director Robin Gray said yesterday that he was not part of a consortium led by Mr Gay.

Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth said this week that it would be "grossly improper" for a buyer of any Gunns sawmill to be secretly provided with a resource guarantee after asking in Parliament whether Forestry Tasmania had guaranteed native wood supply to both the Deloraine and Somerset Gunns mills.

But industry sources said that Mr Gay would not receive any special deals and that he might seek supply for the Deloraine mill from the private sector.

Forest Industry Association Tasmania chief executive Terry Edwards said yesterday that Mr Booth knew that a timber resource was to stay with the Somerset veneer mill as part of the intergovernmental forest agreement.

Resources Minister Bryan Green told Parliament that Victorian-based Dell Vista Pty Ltd had bought the Southwood Huon mill.

"It is a family company wholly owned by Trevor Andrews," Mr Green said.

"He has appointed Mr Ken Last, a well-known forest identity in Tasmania, to negotiate and manage the investment on his behalf."

It is understood that the Tamar Valley-based company Artec has bought Gunns' Western Junction mill.