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The return of Sandy Nelson


When Maurice S. Nelson Jr. retired last year from the chief executive officer's post at Earle M. Jorgensen Co. after its $984-million sale to Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co., most of his service center industry colleagues expected him to spend time visiting France and perhaps joining some corporate boards.

When he joined the Jorgensen organization in 1997 it was one of the industry's most venerable names, started in the early 1920s by its namesake founder, but had lapsed into a period of less-than-stellar performance following a 1990 leveraged buyout. Nelson, best known as "Sandy," spurred the company's turnaround, finally accomplishing an initial public offering in 2005.

But in January this year, Platinum Equity LLC, the Beverly Hills, Calif., vehicle of private equity entrepreneur Tom Gores, lured Nelson out of retirement to become chief executive officer of its PNA Group.

PNA, the $1.6-billion-per-year-former U.S. steel distribution unit of TUI AG of Germany that Gores acquired in 2006, now includes Delta Steel Inc. and Metals Supply Co., both in Houston; Infra-Metals Co., Atlanta; and processor Feralloy Inc., Chicago. Its business is in large part focused in the sweet spot of the steel market today plate, structurals and other heavy carbon products.

When Nelson joined PNA, a number of outsiders ventured that his experience in guiding Jorgensen though its IPO likely played a large part in his hiring. A few months later, they apparently were proven right when PNA registered for a public offering of up to $175 million.

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