CEO of the Week: Nucor’s Leon J. Topalian

Leon J. Topalian’s first months as Nucor’s CEO challenging due to Covid.

Leon J. Topalian’s first several months as CEO of Nucor Corp. has been challenging, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Topalian on January 1 assumed the top C-Suite post, replacing John J. Ferriola, who retired as chairman and CEO (John H. Walker became the non-executive chairman). The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company and its affiliates are manufacturers of steel and steel products, with operating facilities in the U.S. and Canada. Nucor is also North America’s largest recycler.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Nucor’s operations, the company said in its first quarter earnings release. While the company is deemed an essential business and is maintaining production operations sufficient to meet its customers’ ongoing needs, several of its facilities had to cease operations due to shutdown orders or in the case of its Louisiana facility, as a precaution in the particularly vulnerable jurisdiction (the Louisiana facility has since resumed production operations with additional health and safety procedures).

Nucor’s net income for the first quarter income dropped to $20.3 million, or 7 cents per diluted share, from $501.8 million, or $1.63 per diluted share, a year ago. The results included a Covid-related impairment charge of $287.8 million, or 92 cents per diluted share, related to the company’s equity method investment located in Italy, Duferdofin Nucor S.r.l. Excluding this, Nucor’s profit was slightly below the company’s March 19 guidance range.

While Nucor expects to post a loss for the second quarter, the company expects to return to profitability in the second half of the year.

“Over these last several weeks, the spirit of Nucor’s culture has been on full display,” Topalian said in the April 28 earnings release. “Our teammates are not only continuing to serve our customers, but they are also living up to our deeply shared sense of responsibility to the communities in which we operate and live.”

“I want to thank my teammates who have had to change how they work but have not changed the quality and timeliness of what they produce,” he added. “I also want to thank our customers for their support and continued business in this challenging time and look forward to building even more powerful long-term partnerships. I am confident that we will get through this crisis and emerge stronger from it, by living our culture every day, staying focused and taking care of each other.”

Topalian previously served as Nucor’s president and chief operating officer from last September until he assumed the top post this year. Topalian began his career with the company as a project engineer at Nucor Steel-Berkeley in 1996 and was promoted to Cold Mill production supervisor in 1998. He has held various leadership positions throughout his Nucor career in Australia, at Nucor Steel South Carolina, Nucor Steel Kankakee and Nucor-Yamato Steel Co. Topalian served as executive vice president of beam and plate products from 2017 to 2019.


Headquarters: Charlotte, North Carolina

Age: 51

Education: bachelor’s degree, marine engineering, Massachusetts Maritime Academy

First joined company: 1996

Prior to joining Nucor: N/A

Named CEO: January 2020


He’s No. 121 on Chief Executive and RHR International’s CEO1000 Tracker, a ranking of the top 1,000 public/private companies


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events