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Esmark CEO Pays Visit to Mill, Union

August 29, 2012
By KIM LOCCISANO - For The Intelligencer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Gaining a groundswell of public grassroots support for completion of the pending purchase of the RG Steel Yorkville mill by Esmark was the main motivation for the company's CEO Jim Bouchard's decision to pay an impromptu visit to the mill and to the local steelworkers' union hall on Monday afternoon.

The sale of the plant was to have closed by Friday at the latest, but Bouchard had been forced to bring the process to what he hopes will be only a temporary halt after a 2-year-old unresolved Ohio Environmental Protection Agency issue was brought to his attention the day before he intended to complete the $7 million purchase.

He intends to complete the purchase, but realistically that needs to happen within the next few days in order to put the company in position to successfully enter negotiations with potential tin plate customers for the coming year's sales.

Tin plate contracts are traditionally negotiated once annually across the marketplace, Bouchard said during his visit Monday. His timetable for reaching a successful resolution on the matter, which RG has not resolved although the problems happened on its watch, is next Friday.

Local, regional and state politicians are being called on to help successfully resolve the matter, possibly through one of the state's brownfield remediation programs or resources.

Bouchard said he believes the matter being successfully resolved within the needed timetable is a strong possibility.

There is no time to spare when it comes to the importance of closing the sale within the next few days, he said during a quick stop at the nearby Ohio Coatings Co. site at the south end of Yorkville.

An eleventh hour revelation by RG Steel about an unresolved 2010 OEPA issue at the Yorkville mill was the reason Bouchard felt he had no choice other than to delay completing the transaction until he could secure needed details from the EPA regarding the scope of the mandated resolution.

Bouchard was just hours away from completing the purchase of bankrupt RG Steel's Yorkville mill when he had to halt the process. Bouchard and his team were not pleased to learn of the unresolved OEPA issue only a day before the deal was set to be completed, but they were even more frustrated upon learning the letter from the OEPA to the plant was originally in RG Steel's hands on July 30.

"They had this information in hand from the end of July and only decided to share it with us the very day before I planned to complete the transaction," he said.

"We were prepared to close on the Yorkville sale ... The cash was wired. We had everything in place that was needed in order to ready to close on the Yorkville deal," said Bouchard.

If the matter can be successfully resolved next week, Bouchard still plans on completing the purchase of the mill - making it the only one of the closed facilities in RG Steel's bankruptcy reorganization to be purchased with a plan for it to be up and running within weeks of the sale's completion.

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