Mining accidents generally have no direct impact on the auto industry, but last week's deadly disaster in West Virginia could be an exception. The reason? Investor Wilbur Ross, who wants to become a player in the automotive supply sector, is the nonexecutive chairman of International Coal Group Inc., which owns the mine in which 12 workers died.
Media coverage of the debacle no doubt got close attention at auto interiors giant Lear Corp. In October, Lear and Ross signed a framework agreement to form a global joint venture. Now they are sorting out the legal details of their agreement.
Ross has made billions of dollars buying into distressed industries such as coal and steel, then selling as the industry recovers. Now he wants to build the planet's largest auto parts enterprise.
It's not clear how much financial impact Ross might feel from the coal mining disaster. And it no doubt will demand much of his time and attention.
But a Lear spokeswoman says the company doesn't expect problems with the auto negotiations. So far, she says, the company has been dealing with Ross' lawyers and not the mogul himself.
Last month Ross' investment fund took International Coal public, raising about $210 million on the New York Stock Exchange. Ross owns about 13.5 percent of International Coal, or about 20.9 million shares. The stock dropped about 5 percent the first day of trading after the accident. Ross told Reuters the coal company would set up a $2 million fund for families of the dead miners.