Out of The Woods and Into The Office
By Rachel Rosmarin

(Business 2.0) – After years of missing the forest for the trees, timber giant Boise Cascade has put down its saws. In November the company sold off its paper manufacturing and lumber businesses for $3.7 billion to become OfficeMax, the nation's third-largest office-supply chain.

Why did Boise abandon the businesses it has known for 50 years? Because the company's fortunes were too closely tied to the wild swings of pulp production: Its commodity paper business turned in a $12 million loss in 1997, a $203 million profit in 2000, and a $14 million loss in 2003.

Selling office supplies—something Boise's Office Solutions division has done since the 1960s—proved more dependable, delivering 43 percent of total revenue and 57 percent of operating profit in 2003. Boise purchased OfficeMax in 2003 and last year decided to assume the identity of its profitable acquisition. It'll be tough to beat industry leader Staples in the $150 billion office-supply business, but analysts believe OfficeMax could overtake Office Depot, the troubled No. 2. — RACHEL ROSMARIN