UPDATE 1-Activist target Cliffs appoints Halverson CEO

Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:51pm EST

Feb 13 (Reuters) - Cliffs Natural Resources Inc's board of directors appointed Gary Halverson, until now its president and chief operating officer, as chief executive with immediate effect, the company said on Thursday.

Cliffs, a Cleveland-based iron ore and coal producer, has been without a CEO since Joseph Carrabba's retirement in November.

Halverson, 55, a former executive with Barrick Gold Corp , was appointed to replace Carrabba but was given the title of president and chief operating officer while he became more familiar with the business.

Cliffs was recently targeted by an activist investor, hedge fund Casablanca Capital after the mining company was the second-worst performing stock on the S&P500 Index last year. Casablanca wants to install its own CEO as well as a majority of directors on the board. ID:nL2N0LH0OX]

On Wednesday, Casablanca named another mining executive as its preferred candidate for CEO and said it planned to nominate new board directors.

In a statement on Wednesday, Cliffs Chairman James Kirsch said, "We are confident that Gary is the right candidate to lead Cliffs given his proven experience with international and long-term mining operations and understanding of the global commodities industry."

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