Possibilities for Posco CEO start to percolate

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Possibilities for Posco CEO start to percolate

After Posco Chairman and CEO Chung Joon-yang submitted his resignation Friday, speculation is mounting about who will be the next leader of country’s largest steelmaker.

Chung, 65, abruptly handed his resignation to Lee Young-sun, chairman of Posco’s board of directors, during the temporary board meeting. Chung said through a release that “there was no outside pressure,” but it seems few believe him.

Industry insiders point out Chung’s resignation was not surprising considering that Posco CEOs have been replaced whenever there is a new administration, and there were signs the government was pressuring him to step down.

Chung was not included in the business delegation that accompanied President Park Geun-hye to China in June and Vietnam in September. He also did not participate at the top 10 conglomerate chairmen meeting with Park in August.

In September, the National Tax Service also conducted a special investigation of Posco. And the company’s operating profit last year was half of what it was in 2011.

“Chung invested a lot to make Posco become a global company, but because of the global economic slump it didn’t work out as expected,” said Kang Tae-hyun, an analyst at E-Trade Securities.

Since the company was privatized in 2000, all Posco CEOs have been promoted from within, but since the government influences the appointment, some industry observers speculate that Chung’s successor could come from outside.

According to company rules, the CEO candidate recommendation committee needs to select a final candidate from the possible internal directors for final approval at the shareholder’s meeting in March.

Excluding Chung, there are four internal directors: presidents Park Ki-hong and Kim Joon-sik, and vice presidents Chang In-hwan and Kim Eung-kyu.

However, the committee can also select an outside director and recommend him as a “candidate that will become an inside director and eligible CEO.”

According to the media, possible outside candidates include Kim Jong-in, former senior presidential secretary for economic affairs; Jin Nyum, former finance minister; and Kim Won-gil, former welfare minister.

Koo Ja-young, vice chairman of SK Innovation, was also mentioned. He previously worked for Posco between 1988 and 1993 as a managing director.

Other possibilities with substantial Posco experience are former Posco E&C Chairman Yoon Seok-man, Daewoo International Vice Chairman Lee Dong-hee and Posco E&C Vice Chairman Chung Dong-hwa.

Posco said that nothing is confirmed at this moment since the committee hasn’t even gathered yet. The company rules suggest that the committee to select the final candidate meet at least two weeks before the next shareholders meeting, which is scheduled on March 14.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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