Eichler elected chairman of VSŽ Board of Directors

The board of directors at steelmaker VSŽ, Slovakia's largest industrial company, elected Gabriel Eichler chairman of the board on September 27. The move gave further impetus to restructuring at the firm and dealt another blow to VSZ's former top brass, who tried recently to have the current management dismissed.

The board also confirmed Eichler as VSŽ President and Ladislav Matusák, Anton Lukáš, Vladimir Repčák and Attila Tóth as vice presidents. The meeting also confirmed Howard McKee as executive vice president for restructuring and James Lawrence as executive vice president for sales; both men will serve until their contracts expire on October 8 this year.

Vice presidents Ladislav Drábik and Ján Valenčík did not fare so well, both being fired and Drábik being replaced by Martin Pitorák from VSŽ's joint venture with US Steel.

At a specially-summoned shareholder meeting (EGM) on September 22, all six members of the VSŽ supervisory board were recalled in a motion supported by over 60% of shareholders present.

The meeting had originally been called by supervisory board member Jaroslav Grúber, who proposed to have Eichler dismissed and the current management's development strategy discredited.

The government had feared that a group led by former VSŽ President Alexander Rezeš would attempt to wrest control of the company from its current management at the EGM. Rezeš still owns an estimated 25% stake in VSŽ.

Instead, however, a new supervisory board was elected, consisting largely of men representing the interests of the state and VSŽ's creditor banks; Martin Barto (chief of strategy at state bank SLSP), Ladislav Vaškovič (president of state bank VÚB), Jan Turčan (chairman of the dismissed supervisory board), British financial expert David Simon (consultant with Czech bank ČSOB), Anna Bubeníková (FNM national privatization agency) and Austrian economist Albert Oberhofer (representing VSŽ's bank creditors).

The disappointed Grúber has promised to appeal the EGM decision in court.

VSŽ employees must now elect three more people to the supervisory board, bringing the total to nine, according to the company's statutes.

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