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Esmark eyes RG steel office, Wheeling Corrugating

June 1, 2012
By CASEY JUNKINS - For The Weirton Daily Times , Weirton Daily Times

WHEELING - One of the city of Wheeling's largest and oldest buildings may soon have a new owner, as James Bouchard said his company, Esmark Inc., hopes to purchase the RG Steel building on Market Street.

On the same day RG Steel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Bouchard - founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Pittsburgh-based Esmark - said his company is bidding to purchase the downtown Wheeling office, as well as most of the Wheeling Corrugating facilities across the nation.

This proposed purchase, however, will not include the Beech Bottom or Martins Ferry portions of the Wheeling Corrugating business. Bouchard said Esmark is also not making an effort to buy the other local RG Steel plants in Steubenville, Mingo Junction, Yorkville, or the Follansbee Mountain State Carbon coke plant.

"Steubenville has been down for so long that restarting it would be a monumental ... task. That's not something we're interested in," said Bouchard.

Esmark previously owned all the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel facilities before selling them to Russian steelmaker OAO Severstal for $1.23 billion in July 2008. Severstal, after idling the Steubenville and Mingo plants in 2009, later sold these plants to RG Steel.

"We owned the Wheeling Corrugating business before, and we know it well. It is a great, 120-year-old company that we want to see stay in operation," Bouchard added.

The other Wheeling Corrugating facilities, according to the company's website, include Emporia, Va.; Fallon, Nev.; Fort Payne, Ala.; Grand Junction, Colo.; Houston, Texas; Lenexa, Kan.; and Louisville, Ky. Bouchard said these plants are basically "finishing" facilities, making them more easy to operate than the Martins Ferry or Beech Bottom plants.

The Wheeling Corrugating website notes the company, founded in 1890, specializes in roofing and siding, decking, highway and bridge building, painted coil, galvanized steel and coil products and specialized detailing.

Esmark spokesman Bill Keegan said these operations should fit well with Esmark's business model, noting, "We feel these assets fit well with our operations in the midwest and northeast."

Bouchard and Keegan said the downtown Wheeling office, which has stood as one of the largest in the city since 1905 and served as the headquarters for the former Wheeling-Pitt steelmaker for many years, now houses the headquarters for Wheeling Corrugating on four of its floors. Bouchard wants to keep the company working in the building, while marketing office space on the other eight floors.

Though Esmark will not be purchasing the Beech Bottom plant, Bouchard said he would like to take some of the equipment out of the plant to use at a new Esmark operated facility. He did not know exactly where this new facility would be or when it would open, however.

Bouchard and Keegan said they could not confirm how much Esmark would agree to pay for the facilities, but said the deal should be complete in 45 days.

"We are working with the United Steelworkers and elected officials to preserve the 120-year institution of Wheeling Corrugating, and protect as many union and non-union jobs as possible in West Virginia and across the country," added Keegan, noting Esmark plans to invest about $1 million in the physical assets and equipment of Wheeling Corrugating to maintain the company's market position.

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