The Ohio-based producer confirmed that Sullivan, 59, would join the board on January 1 and be its 11th director.
Sullivan, a graduate of American University and Carroll University, joined CCMP Capital Advisors in 2012.
He had a 34-year career with OEM Bucyrus.
Sullivan first entered the mining industry when he accepted his first Bucyrus position in 1976.
He was named vice-president of sales and marketing for the company in 1995, and was later promoted to executive vice-president.
He joined United Container in 1999 as president and chief executive officer, but returned to Bucyrus the following year.
In 2000-2004 he was its president, where he successfully transformed the company's financial position. In 2004 he was named president, chief executive officer and a director of the company, a role he fulfilled until last year.
“His background and in-depth understanding of the global mining industry will be extremely beneficial to our board as we continue to execute our strategic growth plans in a challenging economic environment,” Cliffs chairman, president and CEO Joseph Carrabba said.
“Tim's understanding of the importance of capital allocation will only add to his contributions to our business.”