National Steel CEO Receives Rich Reward for Quitting - TheStreet

Here's alchemy at its best.

John Goodwin, former chief executive of stumbling

National Steel

(NS) - Get Report

, turned steel into gold -- as in a golden parachute.

Goodwin walked away from the company last August with a $1.9 million payment, according to the company's proxy statement filed with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

Wednesday. In addition to that, he received a salary of $358,823 last year and a $207,147 bonus. And he received options to buy 50,000 class B common shares.

Why such spoils? Well, that's a tough one to figure. Goodwin's enrichment came as the steel maker was having a tough time financially. Through June 30, 1996, National, the nation's fifth biggest steel maker, posted a loss of $5.2 million, compared with net income of $75 million in the year-earlier period.

And Goodwin may get more. The proxy says the $1.9 million is a "partial payment." Goodwin is also entitled to receive accrued vacation pay and retirement benefits. In addition, he gets health-care benefits, life insurance coverage and disability insurance for three years. And the proxy notes that Goodwin and the company still are negotiating over "certain unresolved contract issues."

National Steel officials couldn't be reached for comment.

Goodwin left after a messy internal fight. He was lured away from

USX's U.S. Steel Group

(X) - Get Report

in 1994 and set about reviving the ailing National by working with the

United Steelworkers

union and making the production process more efficient.

But he failed to push National far enough into value-added steel products just as supply in commodity grades of steel was climbing. When that began hurting the company's finances, relations between Goodwin and National's majority owner, Japan's

NKK

, deteriorated, leading NKK to take away Goodwin's CEO title in August. Goodwin then quit as president and chief operating officer. NKK installed one of its own, Osamu Sawaragi, as National's new CEO.

National's stock, meanwhile, remains in the doldrums. It has fallen about 14% this year and is trading at about 8.

By Erle Norton

enorton@thestreet.com