EnergySolutions Inc. will soon return to private ownership after shareholders approved a merger agreement Friday that gives them $4.15 cash per share.
The merger with affiliates of Energy Capital Partners II LLC had been uncertain going into the vote because of objections some shareholders raised after the deal was announced in January. But a board decision to delay an earlier vote and sweeten the original offer paid off in shareholder support.
"We are extremely pleased to have stockholder support for the merger with ECP," said EnergySolutions CEO and President David Lockwood in a statement. "We expect to receive regulatory approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission later this quarter."
Already approved in Utah and other states with operations, the ownership change is expected to be final before July, and it closes another chapter in the headline-grabbing history of a Utah-grown business, started by an Iranian-born entrepreneur.
Named Envirocare of Utah when founder Khosrow Semnani bought a mile-square plot of state land 25 years ago, the site came to be called a "national treasure" for its role in burying the nation's low-level radioactive discards from making atomic weapons and nuclear energy.
Utah businessman Steve Creamer cobbled together a national and, later, international nuclear services company after teaming up with other investors to buy Envirocare in 2004 and expand into other areas of radioactive waste management over the following two years.
In November 2007, the rebranded EnergySolutions Inc. fetched 30 million shares in its initial public offering and raised $690 million. The $23-per-share price on opening day beat expectations by $2 to $4 per share.
But even that early excitement would soon be dampened by controversy. The company was investigated for alleged anti-competitive practices. Then shareholders sued, claiming insiders short-changed them in a secondary offering and only settled last fall.
The company routinely ruffled Utahns. One time it announced plans to nearly double the size of the Tooele County waste site. Another, it pushed to bury large volumes of low-level radioactive waste from Italy and other foreign nations in the Utah landfill, which is roughly 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. That issue also would wind up in court in a fight the company eventually lost.
In recent years, the company sparked controversy with a proposal to bury downblended resin waste from nuclear power plants and another to accept large quantities of depleted uranium, an unusual waste that grows more hazardous over time.
It also landed a contract to clean up a nuclear plant site in the United Kingdom and operate its reactors. Plus, the company launched a $1 billion nuclear-plant cleanup in Illinois.
The current management team, the third in four years, will continue to run the company in its latest iteration.
Company spokesman Mark Walker said Utahns won't see any changes even after the merger is finalized.
"It's business as usual for us at Clive [where the disposal site is located] and for the entire company," he said. "This [ownership change] does not change our commitment to the safety of our employees, the general public and the environment."