Stillwater Mining Company, the largest public corporation in Montana and one of the state's largest employers, announced Monday that former Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer was elected chairman of the company's board. He will help lead a search to replace the company's longtime CEO, Frank McAllister, several weeks after Schweitzer and three other outsiders were elected to the eight-member board in a takeover attempt.
Before the takeover attempt, Schweitzer told the Great Falls Tribune that the outcome of the coup would affect his decision on whether to run to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. But Schweitzer didn't say then which way the takeover outcome was pushing him, and he was no more forthcoming Monday after the news of his corporate chairmanship came out.
"I have a timetable, and at some point in the future I will begin contacting the reporters that really matter, and most of them will have a telephone number that starts with 406," Schweitzer said in a phone interview, laughing as he suggested his calls would be to Montana journalists.
Schweitzer declined to elaborate on what his role as Stillwater's chairman will be, saying that he didn't want to discuss "doings and operations of the company not included in its quarterly reports." He did say that he will be involved in an "international search" for McAllister's replacement. Schweitzer also cast his work for the company in terms of what's best for the state.
"I got involved in this because it's such an important driver of jobs in Montana," Schweitzer said, adding: "The history in Montana is of extraordinary companies making investments outside and then going broke." (Stillwater recently made a poorly received major investment in a mine in Argentina.)
"This company is not going broke," Schweitzer continued. "It is going to prosper, and not by investing in other locales. We're going to make this mine the most efficient, safest and most profitable."
While he was in Billings for a recent corporate board meeting, Schweitzer stopped by several other events, including the Yellowstone County Democrats' Truman Dinner and a Planned Parenthood dinner over the weekend. Schweitzer said he didn't speak at either dinner, both of which were also attended by Baucus and his fellow Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. "I just stopped by," Schweitzer said.
Just before getting off the phone, Schweitzer said I should look on the bright side despite not having a Montana area code: At least he hadn't heard any news of my phone being tapped.
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