LOS ANGELES Klaus J. Abstoss, a veteran of nearly 50 years in steel trading with the former Thyssen AG and later with his own company, has died in a drowning accident.
Services were held this past weekend for Abstoss, 68, president of Abstoss International Steel Holding Inc., Greenwich, Conn., widow Renate Abstoss told AMM this week.
Abstoss was found Aug. 21 in the family swimming pool in Greenwich, a Greenwich Police Department spokesman said. The state office of the chief medical examiner has made a preliminary determination of accidental drowning.
Abstoss joined Thyssen (now ThyssenKrupp AG) in the former West Germany in 1964, moving to the United States in 1968 and arriving in Los Angeles in 1972 at the dawn of what some people now describe as the heyday of European steel trading activity in the United States. He headed the Los Angeles office until 1983, when he was named to direct Thyssens Habag GmbH trading unit. He left that subsidiary in 1989, eventually forming his own company.
Thyssens Los Angeles office at one point employed up to 15 people, among them some of the highest-profile traders in the western United States, doing as much as 250,000 tons or more in business annually, according to one estimate. This didnt include a separate Thyssen Metal Service distribution operation, which was later sold off.
While at Thyssen, Abstoss was one of a group of independent-minded traders instrumental in putting together deals between steelmakers and consumers in such developing markets as Brazil and South Korea, not necessarily involving Thyssen products, some of Abstoss former colleagues noted. These "third-party" trades were seen as innovative within traditional mill-connected trading companies, whose employees had ambitions far larger than the amount of tons their own European plants could provide in a global commodity steel market increasingly driven by new, low-cost steelmakers in emerging economies and growing supply from eastern Europe.
Abstoss most recent proposed venture also involved the West Coast, where he operated his own pickling operation, California Coil Processors Inc., Torrance, Calif. He began to plan a $150-million conversion facility in late 2004 and early 2005 in the same location, which he said would eventually produce 800,000 to 1 million tons of hot-rolled coil per year from imported slab.
Despite widespread outside skepticism from the outset about the viability of the slab project, for which the estimated cost eventually grew to a range of $225 million to $250 million, Abstoss persisted in his effort for four years. However, he admitted defeat in early 2009 after being unable to land financing, and shut down the pickling operation shortly thereafter.
In 2010, Abstoss said Abstoss International was in a "holding pattern" as he pondered his next move in a difficult global environment for independent steel traders (amm.com, Aug. 30).