Ryerson: A Rusted-Out Fixture

The venerable Chicago company missed out on the hottest steel market in a generation, a stumble that forced its sale and cost the CEO his job

On an early Wednesday morning in October, Neil Novich stepped to the microphone for what would be his final stockholders meeting as chief executive of Ryerson, one of Chicago's oldest companies. Few attended the somber event: two dozen employees and attorneys in a carpeted conference room at the company's headquarters. In less than 10 minutes it was over, as Novich reported that holders of 80% of the outstanding shares had approved the sale of the steel distributor to a Los Angeles private equity fund. Days later, Novich was out of a job.

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