Regulators notified of Mont. miner takeover bid

Regulators notified of Schweitzer-hedge fund takeover bid for Montana mining company

Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Investors including Montana's former governor filed formal notice of their intent to take over a mining company they say is losing value and putting its domestic operations at risk with foreign expansion pursuits, according to regulatory filings released Monday.

Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and the Clinton Group hedge fund are trying to oust the CEO and board of directors from Billings-based Stillwater Mining Co.

In coming weeks, they'll launch a campaign to convince shareholders that CEO Frank McAllister is not worth the $5.2 million he was paid last year, and that McAllister blundered with his pursuit of a costly copper mine in Argentina and a palladium mine in Canada.

An earnings report released two weeks ago showed Stillwater's profit fell sharply in 2012 even though its platinum and palladium production remained relatively steady. That's because prices were down for the metals for much of the year.

Notwithstanding such fluctuations, Schweitzer and the Clinton Group said Monday that Stillwater's stock has been battered by flagging investor confidence since it spent hundreds of millions on expansion projects, which would cost billions more to develop.

McAllister said in a conference call with analysts last month that he remains optimistic about both projects. He also stressed the company is sinking most of its capital expenditures into mine expansions in Montana, where it operates a pair of platinum and palladium mines in the rugged Beartooth Mountains.

Stillwater is the largest publicly owned mining company in Montana. It's also one of the state's major employers, with 1,500 workers.

Securities and Exchange Commission filings posted Monday provide details of the dissident group's proposal for a replacement board of directors that would include Schweitzer.

Among his co-nominees are former Stillwater CEO and company founder Charles Engles; John DeMichiei, president of Signal Peak Energy and its Bull Mountain coal mine in central Montana; Clinton Group managing director Greg Taxin; and four other nominees from the mining and financial industries.

Clinton Group, which operates multiple investment funds out of the Cayman Islands, controls about 1 percent of Stillwater's stock.

Schweitzer, a Democrat, was forced out of office in January by term limits. Since then, he has bought 29,000 shares in the company, worth about $377,000 based on Monday's closing price of $13.01.

Stillwater last week notified the SEC that it was re-nominating McAllister and the other seven members of the current board for new terms.

The contest for control of Stillwater will be decided at the company's annual meeting, tentatively scheduled for May 2 at the Stillwater Mine in Nye.

The top eight vote getters will be named to the board.

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