Superior TeleCom, Inc., New York, N.Y., and Essex International, Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind., said their respective boards of directors have approved a merger agreement in which Superior will acquire Essex for nearly $1.4 billion in combined cash, stock and debt assumption. The combined company would have extensive market coverage and revenues in the $2.4-billion range.

The deal would combine two strong wire companies into one of the top producers of wire and cable in North America. The transaction comprises an outlay of $936 million, consisting of $769 million in cash and $167 million in liquidation value of new Superior preferred stock. Superior also will assume about $419 million in Essex debt.

Superior TeleCom makes telecommunications cable and multiplexers for the telephone company market. Following the acquisition, 35% of Superior's revenues will come from communications cable products, according to Superior's chairman and chief executive officer, Steven S. Elbaum. Another 35% will be generated by OEM sales of magnet wire, primary wire and electrical insulation materials.

Following the merger, Essex executives will retain control of the electrical operations and will figure prominently in the Superior hierarchy. Steven R. Abbott, president and CEO of Essex, will become president and chief operating officer of Superior.