Esmark Buys Homewood-based North American Steel

December 07, 2005, Crain’s Chicago Business, By Bob Tita

Steel industry consolidator Esmark Inc. said Wednesday it has acquired Homewood-based steel distributor North American Steel LLC.

The purchase price was not disclosed, but the deal involved both cash and equity in Chicago-based Esmark, an Esmark spokesman said. As part of the deal, North American co-owners Michael Bush and Thomas Jeter will become Esmark executives. Mr. Bush will be president of Century Steel in Chicago Heights , a steel distributor purchased by Esmark early this year. Mr. Jeter, meanwhile, will serve as president of North American Steel.

Founded in 1993, North American Steel specializes in distributing steel to the automotive, construction and appliance industries. The company also operates a steel-painting plant in Youngstown , Ohio . North American Steel has sales of more than $30 million a year. Company executives say it’s positioned for significant growth in the coming years, predicting that annual sales will reach $100 million by the end of 2008.

Brothers James and Craig Bouchard launched Esmark in late 2004 to acquire Midwestern steel distributors. North American Steel is the company’s seventh acquisition, pushing Esmark’s annual sales to more than $600 million.

“With annual purchases of more than 750,000 tons of value-added products and processing capacity also exceeding 750,000 tons, Esmark is building a model integrated steel services firm that rivals anything on the market today,” said Mr. Bush.

Improved market conditions in the steel industry in 2004 sparked a wave of consolidation in the highly fragmented steel distribution business. Lower prices in 2005 cooled some of that merger activity. But analysts say rising steel prices in recent months have rekindled interest in steel company buyouts.