Big River Steel
this morning released a statement confirming the death of its CEO and Chairman, John Correnti
Thus far, the company has given no indication as to the circumstances of Correnti's death. We'll update with details as we get them:
OSCEOLA, Arkansas (August 19, 2015) – It is with the deepest sadness that we share news of the death of Big River Steel Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Correnti. John was 68.
John had a long and highly successful career in the steel industry. As the driving force behind numerous greenfield steel mill projects, John’s efforts led to the creation of thousands of high-paying jobs, an accomplishment that gave him great pride.
John was recognized as an early adapter of new steelmaking technologies. Over the course of his career, John worked with a number of leading technology companies, including SMS Siemag, to continually improve the efficiency of steelmaking.
Most recently, John and a group of strategic and financial investors founded Big River Steel to once again propel the industry forward. Big River Steel will be one of many legacies John leaves with us all. John was a visionary, an innovator and a leader who dedicated his career to improving the steel industry and creating opportunities for those that worked within it.
Big River Steel will continue to be managed by its operating committee.
We reached Arkansas Teacher Retirement System Executive Director George Hopkins
in Osceola this morning, where he has been meeting with employees and administrators of the Big River Steel plant project. The state teacher retirement system originally pledged $60 million (20 percent of the total proposed cost)
to help finance the construction of the mill, but later increased their investment to $125 million
Hopkins said that Correnti was "a great guy" who had taken Arkansas as his adopted home (Correnti moved to Blytheville in the 1990s while working for NUCOR Steel, and kept a residence there until his death), but said that the Big River Steel project would not be altered in any way because of his death.
"He was part of the creation of Big River Steel," Hopkins said, "but he, at the same time, is not Big River Steel. Banks would never have loaned and we would never have invested in Big River Steel along with all the other investors had the success of Big River Steel hinged on John Correnti living."
Hopkins said that in meetings and discussions with employees and project leaders this morning, he assured them that the mill would be "built and operated the John Correnti way." That means, Hopkins said, that the mill will be completed on time and under budget.
"I had a meeting with the employees today, along with the other management team, and let the employees know that this mill is on schedule and on time," Hopkins said. "There's not going to be major changes to how this mill would have operated had John Correnti lived. The investors are still focused and excited about the opportunity this mill provides. In no way does this jeopardize, harm or in any way hinder what will ultimately be a steel mill that should be operating beginning in July of 2016. No meetings have been cancelled, no construction has been delayed."
Hopkins said there has been a "tinge of sadness" to today's meetings. Calling Correnti a "force unto his own," Hopkins said: "John Correnti loved Arkansas, he loved the Delta. Every time I every talked to John about this project, he talked about how it would uplift the economy in a part of Arkansas that desperately needed it."