This excerpt taken from the AKS DEF 14A filed Apr 17, 2008.
Executive Summary and Historical Perspective
In 2003, the Company was facing very serious financial and business challenges. The Board took decisive action to address these challenges, including replacing the then-existing top management of the Company in the fall of 2003. In addition, the Board, through its Compensation Committee, made significant changes to the compensation program for the Companys Executive Officers. Those changes have been described in more detail in the various Proxy Statements which have been filed since the fall of 2003, but they principally included (i) significant reductions in severance benefits, (ii) changes in the calculation of termination benefits in the event of a change in control, (iii) adopting a policy requiring shareholder approval of severance agreements with senior executives providing benefits in excess of a specified amount, (iv) adopting stock ownership guidelines for Executive Officers, (v) changing the metrics used to determine incentive awards under the annual and long-term incentive plans, and (vi) instituting the use of performance-based shares as part of the equity awards to Executive Officers.
All of these changes were intended to reflect prevailing principles of good corporate governance, including emphasizing pay-for-performance in executive compensation, while at the same time creating a strong incentive for the new management team to stay with the Company and work diligently to turn it around financially. Over the course of the past four and one- half years, the new management team has stayed with the Company and has been extraordinarily successful in their turnaround efforts. In 2007, the Company experienced its best-ever year financially, with record performance in all significant metrics used to measure the financial performance of the Company. At the same time, the Company improved what was already the best safety record in the steel industry and re-established itself as having the best quality in the steel industry based upon an independent survey of steel industry customers. Since the top management change in the fall of 2003, the Company went from reporting a net loss of $560.4 million in 2003 to reporting net income of $387.7 million in 2007. The Companys cash position has improved from approximately $55 million at the end of 2003 to over $713 million at the end of 2007. During that same time frame, the Company contributed $609 million to its pension fund and redeemed approximately $663 million in long term debt, including $450 million in senior notes not due until 2009. The result has been that the Companys stockholders have been rewarded with an approximate 3000% increase in the price of the Companys common stock, from a closing price of $1.91 on September 25, 2003 to a recent closing price of $57.91 on April 1, 2008.
The compensation reported for 2007 in this Proxy Statement reflects that outstanding performance, not only in 2007, but also in the preceding years. It was during those years that the management team laid the foundation for the Companys record-breaking performance in 2007. Thus, the 2007 compensation for the management team includes a maximum payout under the Companys annual incentive plan (reflecting the best-ever performance of the Company in 2007) and a near-maximum payout under the Companys long-term incentive plan (reflecting the exceptional performance of the Company during the three-year performance period ending in 2007). It also includes a payout of performance shares at the maximum amount for the three-year performance period ending in 2007, reflecting the extraordinary increase in the price of the Companys common stock during that period. Particularly when viewed in the context of the Companys financial performance in 2007, the Companys financial turnaround since the fall of 2003including the most recent three-year performance period directly impacting executive compensationand the Companys stock price performance since the fall of 2003, the Committee believes that the compensation reported for 2007 in this Proxy Statement is appropriate.
The extraordinary increase in the price of the Companys common stock clearly has inured to the benefit of the Companys stockholders. It also appropriately has inured to the benefit of the Companys Executive Officers, who received equity awards in 2004 and other early years of the Companys turnaround when the Companys stock price was less than it is now. Because of the successful turnaround of the Company and consequent increase in stock price, the equity awards granted to the Executive Officers in those early years now have vested
and are providing significant value to the Executive Officers. This, too, the Compensation Committee views as being the appropriate result of the excellent job that the Companys management has done for the stockholders over the past several years.
In summary, in 2003 the Board decided to change the top management of the Company and to change the executive compensation program of the Company to focus on retaining the new top management of the Company and providing them with a strong incentive to work diligently and effectively to turn the Company around financially and put it back on a path of sustained profitability. That emphasis on pay for performance was successful and has inured to the benefit of all of the Companys stakeholders, including its stockholders, bondholders, and employees, as well as its management, who led the turnaround effort. The Compensation Committee believes that the compensation reported for 2007 in this Proxy Statement appropriately reflects that success. The Compensation Committee further believes that it is appropriate to continue this program given the highly competitive nature of the steel industry, the need to encourage and incent the top management of the Company to continue to improve the financial performance of the Company, and the benefits of retaining the existing top management in light of its strong track record of improving the performance of the Company.