Nucor Corp chairman and chief executive officer John Ferriola is set to retire at the end of this year, with Leon Topalian selected to replace him, the company said on Friday September 6.
Nucor’s board of directors elected Topalian president and chief operating officer effective September 5 and he will take over as CEO on January 1, 2020.
"It has been a great privilege and honor to be a Nucor teammate for over 28 years and to serve as Nucor's CEO for the past seven years," Ferriola said in a statement on September 6.
The move is part of the company's planned succession process.
"One of my key priorities as CEO over the past several years has been to lead a robust and thoughtful succession process, and I believe now is the ideal time for me to transition Nucor's leadership... [Topalian] has been an exceptional and proven leader throughout his 23-year career with Nucor, and I am confident in his selection as my successor," Ferriola added.
Under Ferriola, Nucor posted record net income of $2.36 billion in 2018, up by 79% from $1.32 billion in 2017 and nearly five times the nearly $488.03 million recorded in 2013 - when Ferriola began his tenure as CEO.
During Ferriola's time, Nucor has expanded via the construction of its Kentucky plate mill, rebar micro-mills in Missouri and Florida, and its acquisition of auto supplier Century Tube.
Ferriola also oversaw the formation of Nucor Tubular Products following the purchase of three tube mills in 2016 and 2017, which gave the company heavyweight status in the US welded tubing sector.
He has served as the company's chairman since 2014. He had been president of Nucor from 2011 to September 2019, president and chief operating officer from 2011-12, a director of the company since 2011, chief operating officer of steelmaking operations from 2007-10, executive vice president from 2002-07 and vice president from 1996-2001.
Ferriola began his tenure with Nucor in 1991 as manager of maintenance and engineering at Nucor Steel-Texas, and later served as general manager of Vulcraft-Texas, Nucor Steel-Nebraska and Nucor Steel-Indiana, the company said. He also was a two-term chairman of the American Iron and Steel Institute.
"I am honored to be given the opportunity to serve as Nucor's next CEO and appreciate the confidence of the board and John Ferriola," Topalian said. "John has provided us with strong leadership and vision, and I look forward to working with all 26,700 Nucor teammates to continue positioning Nucor as the industry leader."
Topalian began his career with Nucor in 1996, serving as general manager of two Nucor facilities - in Arkansas and Illinois - in addition to a melting and casting manager, operations manager, cold mill production supervisor and project engineer. Most recently, he was executive vice president of Nucor from 2017-19 and vice president from 2013-17.
Announcement met with praise
Friday's announcement was greeted with positive reactions from market sources.
"I think that Nucor is an extremely smart organization and Topalian fits in with their culture very well, starting low in the organization and working up over 23 years... I think he will have the employees behind him, and obviously the board and senior management," a Southern long products distributor said.
"My question is will this change the pricing dynamics in any of the many product groups that Nucor leads?… [Will it make Nucor] more conservative or more aggressive? [Nucor] could stay consistent, but I’m sure there will be variations to some extent," the source said.
"Topalian is highly thought of both within Nucor and outside of Nucor," a Midwestern flat-rolled steel consumer said. "Should be a refreshing change."
A West Coast long products distributor had a similarly positive response. "[Nucor doesn't] make bad decisions with their executive picks," he said. "They have [Topalian] vetted and he met all the criteria."