Execs From Montana’s Largest Mining Company Moving to Denver

Stillwater has about 1,600 employees and operates the only platinum and palladium mines in the U.S. in south-central Montana

By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press

BILLINGS — Top executives from Montana’s largest mining company are relocating to Denver and plan to close its corporate offices in Billings, two years after a leadership struggle in which the company’s former chief executive was sharply criticized for spending too much time outside the state.

Stillwater Mining Co. Chief Executive Officer Michael McMullen told The Associated Press on Thursday that he is among five senior company officials who will make the move to Colorado this summer.

About 15 corporate staff will relocate to Columbus, Montana, site of the company’s smelter and refinery and home of its registered headquarters.

The moves will save the 1,600-employee company more than $20,000 per month, a Stillwater spokeswoman said.

In 2013, McMullen’s predecessor, Frank McAllister, was sharply criticized during a shareholder-led effort to oust him for spending too much time out of state.

Among the critics was former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer — who emerged from the proxy battle as Stillwater’s chairman. The two-term Democrat at the time questioned how the company’s platinum and palladium mines could be effectively managed from outside Montana.

Schweitzer did not return a message seeking comment.

McMullen, 44, who assumed the helm at Stillwater in December, 2013, said the relocation of the corporate office has support from Schweitzer and other board members. He said Denver will be a suitable base for his work because it offers a more convenient meeting place for customers and is home to the company’s outside auditors and legal staff.

McMullen also said he would remain a hands-on manager with frequent visits to Stillwater’s mines near Nye and south of Big Timber.

“Everyone was comfortable with moving the corporate office down there now that they know me,” McMullen said. “It’s a bigger hub, a lot easier to deal with external people out of Denver … It’s not going to make a material change to the business.”

Stillwater has about 1,600 employees and operates the only platinum and palladium mines in the U.S. in south-central Montana’s Beartooth Mountains.

McMullen’s annual salary is $712,000 after increasing eight percent this year. He said it remains below the salary McAllister was receiving at the time of his departure.