Casablanca Capital LP (“Casablanca”), one of the largest shareholders of Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (“Cliffs” or “the Company”) (NYSE: CLF), with beneficial ownership of approximately 5.2%, today announced that it is backing Lourenco Goncalves, former CEO of Metals USA, to fill the currently open position of Chief Executive Officer of Cliffs. Casablanca has also delivered a letter to the Company declaring its intention to nominate a majority of directors for election to Cliffs’ Board of Directors at the Company’s 2014 annual meeting of shareholders.
Goncalves, a 30-year veteran of the metals and mining industry, is standing as CEO candidate, has agreed to be a Casablanca director nominee, and recently made a personal investment of approximately $1 million in Cliffs shares. Goncalves was most recently Chairman, President and CEO of Metals USA. Over the first two years of his 10-year tenure as CEO, the company’s share price grew from $3.08 to $22.00 when taken private. Under Goncalves’ leadership, Metals USA then returned 5.5x to its principal shareholders when it was sold to Reliance Steel and Aluminum for $1.2 billion in 2013.
“The steps Cliffs announced yesterday are, in our view, a knee-jerk response to our call for change. We believe they are inadequate to address Cliffs’ issues, including the need for dramatic cost savings, and do not demonstrate the strong leadership needed to create substantial value for shareholders,” said Donald Drapkin, Chairman of Casablanca. “In spite of its public statements, Cliffs hasn’t engaged us in any meaningful dialogue on the issues we’ve raised or provided a timetable for doing so.”
Drapkin continued, “The sad truth is that shares of Cliffs have lost more than 80% of their value since mid-2011. The Company’s actions to date have confirmed our lack of faith in the ability of the current Board and management team to reverse the deterioration in Cliffs’ financial performance. We are therefore calling for the business to be refocused under a dynamic and experienced CEO, Lourenco Goncalves, supported by a significantly reconstituted Board of Directors. We are confident Mr. Goncalves will bring the strategic and operational skills needed to effect urgent change and restore the fundamental value we see in Cliffs. We will shortly announce a slate of highly qualified Board nominees to oversee this effort.”