John Correnti, a builder of U.S. steel mills who helped shift the domestic industry geographically and technologically, died Tuesday in Chicago.
Correnti, 68, was chairman and chief executive officer of Big River Steel LLC and was in Chicago for a board meeting of Navistar International Corp., the company said. The cause of death was not immediately provided.
Correnti was leading Big River Steel to build a $1.3 billion mill in Osceola, Arkansas, near the Mississippi River. The facility is planned to supply high-quality steel products to customers including automakers and energy companies.
Correnti, who served as CEO of Nucor Corp. from 1996 to 1999, helped move the U.S. steel industry away from Pittsburgh. He helped build a mill in Columbus, Mississippi, that’s now owned by Steel Dynamics Inc. The facility was an electric arc furnace, an innovative plant that produces the metal by recycling scrap steel. Such furnaces, which are less common outside of the U.S., have lower fixed costs than traditional blast-furnace factories that refine iron ore to make steel, giving operators more flexibility.
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“John was passionate about the U.S. steel industry and played an influential role in its transformation,” Nucor CEO John Ferriola said. “He understood as well as anyone the positive contribution the steel industry makes to communities throughout the country. It is truly a loss for our entire industry. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Correnti family during this difficult time.”
Michelle Applebaum, a Chicago-based steel research analyst, remembered spending time with frugal Correnti when he was Nucor’s CEO, eating cheap pizza slices at the airport and driving to meetings in Applebaum’s car, instead of paying for a car service. His values contributed to the company’s horizontal, meritocratic culture, she said.
When Correnti found creative ways to overcome obstacles, he said he had “Nucorized” the problem, an attitude that Applebaum said contributed to Nucor’s growth as it competed with mills that had dominated since the domestic industry’s birth.
Correnti’s death will not affect construction plans, the company said in an e-mailed statement. Big River will be managed by its operating committee, the company said. Correnti served on the board of Navistar, a truck maker.