When it comes to steel producers, any gathering of custom knife makers is sure to produce its share of inaccurate rumors. Most of what has been circulating concerning the 2009 bankruptcy of Crucible Specialty Metals is a classic example. To set the record straight TK contacted Jim Beckman, President of Crucible and Bob Shabala, President of Niagara Steel. Their answers to the questions posed should clear up any questions in the minds of knife makers.
TK: Months after the Crucible bankruptcy in 2009, conflicting stories about both companies seem to persist. What do you attribute this to?
Jim Beckman: In situations like this, it’s hard to pin down an actual rumor source. Rumors seem to have a life of their own. However, we do know that some former employees have expressed concern about the future of Crucible and our relationship with Niagara. Anytime a business model changes, employees can become unsettled. This is especially true when a company downsizes. And often employees make statements about the future direction of a company without full knowledge of what occurred and where things are going.
TK: What led up to Crucible’s bankruptcy?
Beckman: From the outset, Crucible was founded as an employee stock ownership company. Typically, that type of setup has a fundamental debt structure. In 2009, that debt caught up with us. And coupled with the overall downturn in the economy, it was our determination that filing for bankruptcy was the best option to achieve long-term financial solvency. It was our goal to emerge from bankruptcy a leaner and more profitable company.
TK: It’s been rumored that both Niagara and Crucible are owned by the same parent firm. What is the current relationship between Crucible and Niagara?
Shabala: Simply put, Niagara and Crucible are two different companies, with different ownership. Niagara has had an ongoing business relationship with Crucible for over 20 years. Currently, a partnership agreement between the two separate firms exists and Niagara is licensed to sell Crucible steel (including blade steel) directly or through one of our distributors.