Bethlehem, ISG Reach Sales Agreement

By Tonya Vinas Executives at Bethlehem Steel Corp. and International Steel Group (ISG) announced Feb. 5 that they have reached an agreement in principle to sell the producing and non-producing assets of Bethlehem to Cleveland-based ISG. The deal has yet to be approved by Bethlehem's board, which will review the proposal on Saturday. Many details of the transaction, including a price and future plans for many Bethlehem-run plants, were not available Wednesday, but ISG Chairman Wilbur Ross said a press conference on Feb. 10 will convey more details if the Bethlehem board approves the deal. The ISG board already has approved the plan. Other groups must approve the transaction, including the court overseeing Bethlehem's bankruptcy. Bethlehem Chairman and CEO Robert "Steve" Miller said he hopes the consolidation of the companies will begin as soon as April. Bethlehem Steel, located in Bethlehem, Pa., traces its roots back to the mid-19th century, and Charles M. Schwab, who formed the modern-day version of the company, which was once an industrial powerhouse. The company's recent demise and bankruptcy reflected a near-collapse of the integrated-steel-producing sector in the United States. The ISG/Bethlehem marriage is one of many large-scale mergers or purchases in the sector that have taken place in the last year. Ross said the Bethlehem assets would assume the ISG name, but "we have great respect for the heritage of Bethlehem's name, and we're thinking through how best to apply that." Ross also said that ISG plans to spend in excess of $100 million to buy out near-retirement employees of Bethlehem.

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