FRIENDLY TAKEOVER by James B. Lieber

FRIENDLY TAKEOVER

How an Employee Buyout Saved a Steel Town
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The suspenseful tale of an employee buyout that has kept an old-line steel mill operating when many of its Rust Belt counterparts have fallen by the wayside. Drawing on apparently open access to key figures in the lengthy survival struggle, Pittsburgh-based attorney Lieber offers an absorbing account of what happened after National Steel, then America's fifth-largest producer, resolved to close its tinplate facility in Weirton, West Va. While the 1982 decision made business sense, it would have precipitated a socioeconomic disaster in the surrounding area. With thousands of high-paying jobs at stake, the community, politicians, the plant's union, and a flock of outsiders (some with ideological axes to grind) went into action. In return for sizable wage concessions, rank-and-file workers eventually acquired the Weirton complex by means of a controlling interest in a debt-burdened employee stock ownership plan. The 1984 buyout proved but the start of a long march during which the self- consciously democratic owners have had to cope with the fact that their tinplate competes not only with imports from Asia and Europe but also with such rival materials as aluminum and plastic. Constant debates about badly needed capital expenditures, contractual rights, corporate governance, and allied issues convulsed without ever quite transforming shop-floor culture. Despite frequent infighting, Weirton has retained a place in the global steel market in large measure because labor and management found ways to get along with each other at critical junctures. Lieber's narrative brings events to vivid life with deft profiles of the lawyers, union stewards, corporate executives, investment bankers, and other parties to the protracted proceedings who rose to the occasion--or failed to. A detailed briefing on a consequential deal that opened the way for more landmark transactions. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-670-82075-X
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995