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"Ship' captain's interest growing

George M. Steinbrenner plans to step down later this month as chairman of American Ship Building Co., but his stake in the company could continue to grow, thanks to a series of complex financing arrangements. Steinbrenner, who already controls about 3.5-million shares, or 37.4 percent of the publicly traded company, could receive many more if shareholders approve proposals at American Ship's annual meeting here on June 27.

Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees baseball team, has almost tripled his stake in American Ship in the past year. He owned about 13 percent of the company prior to the last shareholders' meeting in March 1990.

But shareholders last year gave him more stock because of his rescue funds, which have kept the beleaguered company alive. He also received some shares as part of his salary as chairman.

Steinbrenner could not be reached for comment Monday but he has said American Ship is headed toward profitability. The company has not posted an annual profit since 1986 and was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy earlier this year.

This year, shareholders again will be asked to approve Steinbrenner's annual salary of $175,000, including $35,000 in cash and 70,000 shares. The company has not revealed the salary for retired Vice Adm. Paul Butcher, who will take over as Steinbrenner's post as chairman at the annual meeting.

According to the proposals to shareholders, Steinbrenner would be awarded an even bigger chunk of stock for his help in arranging financing for the company earlier this year. The series of transactions completed in February gave the company $10-million in loans and up to $28-million in additional cash credit _ all from Steinbrenner and the company's two banks, NCNB National Bank of Florida and Citibank N.A. of New York.

The $28-million cash credit provides the company with a standby financing source, ensuring customers that the company can complete its contracts, said spokesman Phil McNiff.

In exchange for fees, interest and funds that he provided as part of the $28-million, Steinbrenner would be entitled to receive as much as 12.4-million shares of American Ship, which would require the company to issue more stock.

But the company, which will seek a new source to finance the cash credit, said little of the $28-million will be drawn during the first year and it is "remote" that all funds would be drawn at one time.

As part of the financing package to be approved by shareholders, Steinbrenner could convert a $1.5-million loan to the company into 1.2-million shares at $1.22 a share. He also could convert a $2.2-million loan to 1.3-million in shares at $1.64 a share. American Ship stock on Monday traded at $3.25 a share, up 12{ cents.