VINEYARD, Utah County -- Only time will tell if a dose of financial castor oil will be the elixir that ailing Geneva Steel needs to become a healthy company again.

As anticipated, Geneva filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday to reorganize the beleaguered plant, a move Chairman and CEO Joe Cannon called "strong" and "tough" medicine. Restructuring could lead to Cannon's ouster from the company he says "is like a child to me."Cannon and his bleary-eyed executive staff looked as if they could have used a little pick-me-up themselves after huddling with attorneys and financial advisers all weekend to finalize the U.S. Bankruptcy Court petition.

"I'm actually kind of tired," Cannon said after stumbling over some words at the start of a news conference Monday evening. "We spent a lot of time last night preparing this thing."

Heavy debt, falling prices and reduced shipments of its hot-rolled and plate steel have combined to throw what was once called the "Miracle Mill" into a financial coma. The cash-poor company skipped a $9 million interest payment due Jan. 15 on some of its bonds to pay vendors and keep the plant running.

"This isn't a surprise considering the fact they missed the coupon payment," said an East Coast steel industry analyst who asked not to be identified. "The environment is just so terrible that Geneva had little choice given their debt load."

Geneva's debt totals $495 million, according to bankruptcy court documents. The company must shell out $40 million in interest annually before it can calculate net gains. It has had only one profitable year in the last five.

The company placed a hold on the trading of its stock Monday in expectation of filing for bankruptcy. The action will likely lead to it being bumped off the prestigious New York Stock Exchange indefinitely. The stock, which closed last week at 50 cents per share, could be traded on lesser markets.

In addition to its financial woes, Geneva has suffered internal management strife. President Robert J. Grow resigned last week, apparently amid a long-running disagreement with Cannon about how to operate the mill.

Cannon declined to discuss the situation. Grow did not return telephone calls.

The decision to seek court-ordered reorganization came after a "painstaking" examination of the potential impact on all of Geneva's stakeholders, Cannon said, adding he believes the move is in the best interest of the entire company.

Cannon made it clear that Geneva is not going out of business and that it will continue to make steel. The company is asking the bankruptcy court to approve a $125 million line of credit to cover operating expenses. It will secure the loan with accounts receivable, inventory, property and plant equipment.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy differs from Chapter 7, which involves a trustee appointed to collect and sell all of a company's property to repay creditors. Under Chapter 11, a company is protected from creditors and can set up a plan to repay its debts while keeping property.

Geneva's bondholders will now own the vast majority of the company's equity and have the complicated task of restructuring, the analyst said. That could mean Cannon, who helped rescue the plant from permanent closure a dozen years ago, might end up on the outside looking in.

"I would say that's likely," the analyst said.

Cannon said he doesn't know what the chances are that he will be removed. "During the reorganization, the company will be managed the way it's being managed," he said.

Geneva's financial distress stems from two primary factors: debt associated with modernizing and renovating the 54-year-old mill and the Asian economic crisis.

The company has spent $637 million to upgrade its facilities since 1989, making it one of the most state-of-the-art mills in the country. Nevertheless, some of the new equipment has had mechanical problems; some isn't used at all.

Low-price foreign imports are stacked for miles in major U.S. ports, forcing steel prices to plummet and order books to go soft. The plant is running at about half capacity.

Geneva joined 11 other steel companies, including the industry's heavyweights, to file "anti-dumping" cases against Japan, Russia and Brazil. A favorable decision could spur an upswing in prices as early as this spring.

Because Geneva sells on the spot market, it's susceptible to fluctuating steel prices. "They tend to get whipped around in terms of their exposure to pricing," the analyst said. In addition to higher prices, Geneva will need to ship higher volumes to get back on track.

"I don't know when an upturn will come," Cannon said. "I'm fairly confident we are at or near the bottom of the trough."

The Utah Legislature is considering three bills that could help Geneva. The measures would give the company sales-tax exemptions on pollution control devices, replacement equipment and refractory bricks for its blast furnaces.

"Even with the legislative action, if market conditions stay the same, Geneva is in severe jeopardy of being closed," said Sen. John Valentine, R-Utah, adding he fully expected the Chapter 11 filing as a "normal course of business" after a company defaults on a loan.

While it remains a major employer in Utah County, the work force has dropped from about 2,600 to 1,600 the past four years. Most of those workers were laid off in the past year.

Monday's bankruptcy filing will not have a direct impact on union steelworkers, although the soft market continues to take a toll.

"At this point, we don't think we'll see any effect. They intend to honor the contract," said Kelly Hansen, financial secretary of United Steelworkers of American Local No. 2701.

Rank-and-file steelworkers leaving the plant Monday were handed letters signed by Cannon explaining the bankruptcy filing and specifying times for employee meetings. Hansen said he expects workers will carry on business as usual, which in addition to being slow is fraught with rumors about the mill's future.

"I think there will probably be a sense of relief. There has been months of uncertainty about the direction the company was going," he said.

Even while the briefcase-toting men in suits drew up Geneva's financial plan in a corporate boardroom, some guys in hard hats carrying lunch pails wondered how long they'd be making steel.

Business as usual also means steelworkers are continuing to lose jobs and hours. At least 40 were laid off in the past week, and many had their hours cut back from 40 to 32 per week.

Although workers are trying to keep a positive attitude, doubts about the plant's long-term viability remain.

"Everybody's not in very good moods," said a worker. "They just don't know if it's going to shut down or not."

Geneva made nearly $180 million in the first four years under Cannon and Grow during one of the strongest periods ever in the steel industry. However, Cannon said it could not have stayed competitive had it not borrowed money to modernize the plant.