LTV Corporation, with headquarters originally in Dallas, began as an electric company, moved into the defense and aerospace business, and became the nation's third-largest steel manufacturer, supplying steel products to the automotive, appliance, construction, and other industries. The firm's energy components manufacture and sell oil and gas drilling and production equipment in the United States and Canada. The company grew out of a series of mergers and acquisitions conducted by Oklahoma native James L. Ling. Of Bavarian ancestry, Ling was the son of a Catholic convert who, in the climate of anti-Catholic bigotry during World War I, killed a fellow railroad worker and later entered a Carmelite monastery. His mother died when he was young, and he lived for a time with an aunt. He failed to graduate from his Jesuit high school but became a master electrician after training at a Navy school in Mississippi. In 1947 he founded his own Dallas electrical contracting business, Ling Electric Company, where he lived in the rear of the shop. After incorporating and taking his company public in 1955, Ling found innovative ways to market his stock, including door-to-door soliciting and selling from a booth at the State Fair of Texas.
He was an expert at corporate organization and finance who expanded the business by acquiring L.M. Electronics in 1956 and Altec Electronics, a maker of commercial sound systems, in 1959. After merging in 1960 with Temco Aircraft, a military aircraft and missile manufacturer, and acquiring defense contractor Chance Vought in 1961 with the help of loans from insurance businessman Troy Post, Ling's new firm came to be known as Ling-Temco-Vought. In 1961 company sales reached $2.7 billion, and between that year and 1969 Ling acquired or was involved in thirty-three additional corporations. Among those whose support Ling attracted in Dallas was Fred F. Florence of Republic National Bank. LTV was eventually noted for several important "firsts," including first major company to issue junk bonds.
In 1964, while maintaining a majority interest, Ling started a holding company that established three public companies, LTV Aerospace, LTV Ling Altec, and LTV Electrosystems (later E-Systems), from his existing operations. This action raised the overall value of LTV assets, allowing Ling further diversification into companies ranging from copper wire and cable producer Okonite in 1965 to Wilson and Company, a manufacturer of sporting goods involved as well in meat-packing and pharmaceuticals, in 1967. By this time LTV was one of the forty biggest industrial corporations in the nation. Ling went on in 1958 to acquire Greatamerica, Post's holding company for Braniff Airways and National Car Rental, and Jones and Laughlin Steel in 1968. In addition he acquired a series of resorts in Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico, and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. By 1969 LTV employed 29,000 workers and offered 15,000 separate products and services. Ling built a Dallas mansion modeled on Versailles, acquired the Eagle company ranch, and made major donations to civic and charitable causes in Dallas.
By 1969, however, LTV began to experience financial difficulties and a growing anticonglomerate feeling in the nation that prompted an antitrust lawsuit against its further expansion. In a response referred to as the "Palace Revolt," the board demoted Ling in 1970, and he left the company; he was succeeded by former LTV executive Paul Thayer. In 1975, after leaving the company himself, Thayer was involved in a suit over fraud in the sale of unregistered securities and was succeeded by former Xerox executive Raymond Hay. Ling went on to form a holding company known as Omega-Alpha and Xenerex Corporation, with subsidiaries Matric and Delta Gas, both of which later declared bankruptcy. Ling recovered from Guillain-Barré syndrome, first diagnosed in 1981, and later worked with Hill Investors, Incorporated, in Dallas.
In the 1971 antitrust settlement, LTV sold its Braniff and Okonite components, and Thayer changed the company name from Ling-Temco-Vought to LTV Corporation, focused on steel, defense contracting, and energy-related products. The company began to expand once again by 1977, when it merged with Lykes Corporation, a petroleum-equipment enterprise, and Youngstown Sheet and Tube. In 1980 the company was described as a diversified operating company engaged in five basic industries: steel, energy production and service, meat and food products, ocean shipping through Lykes Brothers, and aerospace. Company net income in 1981 totaled $386.3 million on revenues of more than $7 billion. LTV sold its Wilson component in 1981, and in 1984 acquired Republic Steel, but failed to offset falling steel and oil prices and other losses. In 1986 LTV filed for bankruptcy under the burden of paying retiree benefits amounting to more than $3 billion. It cut its workforce from 48,300 to 34,600 by 1991. In the early 1990s the company teamed with Sumitomo Metal Industries, a Japanese company that made major investments in the firm. Sales totaled almost $6 billion in 1991. In 1993, after the company's divisions that made military vehicles and aircraft and missiles were sold to other corporations, LTV remained the nation's third-largest steel producer. Company headquarters moved to Cleveland in 1993.