The Other Time I Got Shot At

A while ago I was the CRO of Gulf State Steel in Gadston, Alabama.

We were in a board meeting debating the effects of imported Asian steel on our cost structure – the effects were bad – and we decided that in order to remain competitive we needed to reduce our 2500 person workforce by at least 20% while also reducing certain employee benefits.

The day before we’d discussed this with the union representative, and though nothing was official, the news was out.


All of a sudden 4 shotgun blasts hit the windows. I hit the floor.

The other directors and board members started laughing at me.

Apparently, they’d installed bulletproof windows in the board room twenty years ago, because shotgun blasts from the union were not an uncommon event.

Now, why did we get shot at?

You may say, because the union was comprised of disgruntled psychos. I wouldn’t fight you on that conclusion, but if this had been happening for twenty years, then obviously there was something else wrong here.

This steel company was in a crunch. It had a huge cash crisis, and it was knee-jerking. There were no more options to contain costs at this stage than a 20% reduction in the work force.

If the CEO had been proactive in keeping costs down 6-12 months prior, though, these kinds of cost reduction processes could have been adjusted more gradually and reasonably – and in ways that didn’t affect the union so dramatically. Asian steel didn’t just show up right before I got there. This was ongoing activity in his market-place and competitive space.

There were options before the crisis, but no one calls me before a crisis. They call me after, and at that point, it’s my job to save a company – not make a series of strategic moves to oust a stronger competitor.

Be proactive. If you have cost problem, an earlier enacted austerity program could keep you from getting shot at. Avoid knee-jerking, and solve your crises before they happen.

And I don’t care if the glass is bulletproof. When I hear unexpected shotgun blasts, I hit the deck.

I’m Lee N. Katz and It’s Nice to Meet You

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

My name is Lee N. Katz, and I’ve specialized in turning companies around for more than 25 years. In 1986, I joined Grisanti, Galef & Goldress (GGG), one of the oldest turnaround consulting firms in the United States. In 1997, I became the managing partner.

Throughout my career in crisis management, I’ve served as an interim executive officer and reorganization director for both large and small companies, public and private, with annual revenues from $5 million up to $3 billion. In addition to offering expert-witness testimony regarding business valuations, turnarounds, and plan feasibilities, and I’ve served on court-appointed federal and state receiverships.

I love using my skills to help owners, CEOs and boards of directors prevent crises from happening, but no one ever seems to know a crisis is happening before the roof gets blown off the barn. And that’s when I step in.

In the 70s I worked for First National Bank of Atlanta, eventually directing their asset-based lending in the Atlanta area. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time developing and managing commercial real estate for end users like Wal-Mart, John Wieland Homes, and other private investor groups.  I’ve renegotiated more than $1 billion in real estate leases and handled numerous environmental issues for real estate and corporate manufacturing clients. Sometimes I do this in cooperation with state and national Environmental Protection Agency authorities.

I often serve as a financial advisor to individuals and trusts.


People often ask me what I specialize in, so I thought I’d toss the short list your way:

  • Financial Restructuring
  • Bankruptcy and Bankruptcy Restructuring
  • Real Estate Receiverships, both Federal and State
  • Operating Company Receiverships, both Federal and State
  • Restructuring Bank Debt with the FDIC and Successor Banks
  • Asset Liquidations
  • Alternative Restructures to Bankruptcy
  • FDIC Negotiations
  • Corporate Due Diligence
  • Bond Restructuring
  • Financial Advising to Bond Funds
  • Corporate Downsizing

Some Public Recognition

For those of you who are kind enough to be interested, my firm, GGG, has been recognized by the Turnaround Management Association’s (TMA) Atlanta Chapter:

• 2008 Small Company Turnaround of the Year Benton-Ga, Inc. Learn More
• 2004 Non-Profit Company Turnaround of the Year – Life University Inc. Learn More
• 2003 Large Company Turnaround of the Year – P.S. Energy Corp.
• 2002 Large Company Turnaround of the Year – Wyncom Inc. Learn More

So, that’s a bit about me.

Now you know who’s writing this blog. If you have any questions about these things or if there’s anything general that I can answer for you, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.