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2001: American Steel’s Annus Horribilis



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As Katrina and Avik noted this morning, there’s a lot more to the story of GST Steel’s 2001 bankruptcy, under the management of Bain Capital, the subject of a new Obama attack ad. Bain Capital released a statement to Reuters noting that 44 U.S. steel companies went bankrupt in that era — it seems rather difficult to pretend that decisions made by Romney himself, or even Bain, were really what forced GST into Chapter 11. Here’s just a partial list of all the U.S. steel companies that went bankrupt in the year or so around GST’s 2001 bankruptcy, a particularly brutal time for the U.S. steel industry:

Sheffield Steel, December 12, 2001

Wellington Industries, December 12, 2001

Rebar Fabricators Inc., December 12, 2001

Bethlehem Steel, October 15, 2001

Wilhelm and Kruse, Inc., October 2001

Edgewater Steel, August 6, 2001

Laclede Steel, July 27, 2001

Precision Specialty Steel, July 16, 2001

Republican Technologies International, April 2, 2001

Trico Steel, March 27, 2001

Heartland Steel, January 24, 2001

CSC Ltd., January 12, 2001

LTV Corp, December 29, 2000

Erie Forge and Steel, December 22, 2000

Northwestern Steel and Wire, December 19, 2000

Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, November 16, 2000

Vision Metals Inc., November 13, 2000

J&L Structural Steel, June 30, 2000

Especially notable, of course, is behemoth Bethlehem Steel, which collapsed under $4.5 billion of debt. This annus horribilis for America’s Vulcans came about for a few reasons. For one, in January, the price of hot-rolled sheet steel, a common steel product, touched to a 20-year low of $220 a ton, the result of a three-year slide due to rising imports and other price pressures. An October 2001 article from Engineering News-Record notes that the three-year crisis had led to an estimated loss of 26,000 jobs. The article explains:

Bethlehem Steel says it is suffering from three years of slowing demand, a glut of supply and depressed prices, which it blames on foreign steel being dumped on the U.S. market. “There has been severe and unrelenting steel price depression in the U.S. steel market ever since the unprecedented steel import surge of 1998,” says Duane R. Dunham, president of Bethlehem Steel.



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