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Wardrop says AK is back on track

By Thomas Gnau

AK Steel Corp. is tough enough to deal with a tough business environment, AK Chief Executive Officer Richard Wardrop said Wednesday.

Though a third of domestic steelmakers have declared bankruptcy in recent years, the Middletown-based Fortune 500 company returned to operating profitability in 2002’s second quarter, Wardrop said.

“I really don’t have to tell this group how tough the steel business is these days,” he told members of Concerned Armco/AK Steel Retired Employees at the Coles Road Veterans of Foreign Wars hall.

Wardrop reminded listeners that 94.1 percent of AK shipments in the second quarter were pricier value-added products, a company record. AK reported net income of $16.2 million and record automotive market shipments of nearly a million tons in the second quarter. Operating profit, a key industry measure, was $46 per ton shipped, including net insurance settlements.

Wardrop, who is also AK’s chairman and president, also celebrated the company’s employee safety record, government awards and recognition from customers. For the fifth time in four years, he said, AK has been named one of Fortune magazine’s 500 most admired companies, he said.

At least two members of United Steelworkers of America Local 169 — the unit locked out of AK’s Mansfield Works since Sept. 1, 1999 — passed handbills outside the hall before, during and after Wardrop’s remarks. They did not enter the hall or disturb the event.

Their presence did not appear to bother Wardrop. At one point before he left the hall’s parking lot, 169 member Larry Pugh, carrying a sign and a cutout evidently meant to be a caricature of Wardrop, approached within a few feet of where Wardrop sat in a car.

Pugh began haranguing Wardrop. Wardrop and AK Vice President of Public Affairs Alan McCoy only smiled while driving away.

“I try to embarrass him whenever I can,” Pugh said.

USWA members passed out sheets criticizing Wardrop for seeking to be relieved of Middletown income taxes for time spent working outside Middletown in the year 2000. Middletown Income Tax Review Board last year rejected his bid for a $42,630 refund. AK Chief Financial Officer James Wainscott is also seeking a refund.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Matthew Crehan had not ruled on Wardrop’s lawsuit in the matter Wednesday afternoon, said Ursula McDonnell, Middletown assistant law director.



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