Paper production requires much water and energy. This may be why financiers from Liège (Luik) in Belgium were interested in supporting Lhoëst – Weustenraad & Cie, a paper manufacturer, to establish a factory on the river Meuse (Maas) in Maastricht. The factory did well and expanded quickly. In 1875, it took the name Koninklijke Nederlandse Papierfabriek (KNP). That period ended with the crash of 1929 and its aftermath, which nearly ended the KNP story. The company made losses only from 1931 to 1937.
A great grandson of founder Lhoëst turned the company around. The second world war brought it back to the abyss, though. After the war, Lhoëst was invited to the US as part of the Marshall plan. He came back with knowledge of coated paper, a new technology for Europe. That turned out to be the key to a new period of success and growth.
Lhoëst retired in 1968. His successors sought growth in mergers and acquisitions and diversified into cheap paper products, like the carton boxes produced by KAPPA (1971). By the 1980s, KPN was a sick company. In spite of heavy investments and more takeovers, including Van Reekum-Gepacy Papier (see below), KNP remained troubled. In 1987, VRG became the property of Main Paper, an Anglo-South-African paper trader, now known as Paperlink. Finally, BT, KNP, VRG and Bührmann-Tetterode merged to form KNP-BT. In 1993, KNP bought an Austrian producer, Leykam–Mürztaler and changed its name in KNP-Leykam. In 1997, KNP-Leykam was acquired by Sappi (South African Pulp & Paper Industry). Other parts of the group remained outside the purchase. One part, Kappa packaging, remained independent, merging with Irish packager Jefferson Smurfit in 2005 to form Smurfit Kappa. Bührmann-Tetterode, was eventually bought by Stapels, a US office supply retailer. The remaining parts of the group are now known as Buhrmann.
Van Reekum Papier was founded in 1917. It merged with Gepacy NV to form Van Reekum Gepacy in 1950.