Montana U.S. Senate Candidate Tim Sheehy Resigns from Bridger Aerospace

Sheehy, company say changes will allow company to have ‘focused’ CEO during fire season

By Blair Miller, Daily Montanan
U.S. Senate candidate Tim Sheehy speaks at his “Save America Rally” in Kalispell on June 13, 2024. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Montana’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tim Sheehy resigned on Monday from his positions at the aerial firefighting and surveillance company he founded with his brother, saying Bridger Aerospace needs a fully engaged chief executive officer during this year’s fire season while he focuses on his run for office.

“This exceptional team deserves a fully focused CEO during its busy fire season. Now that I have won the primary election, it is appropriate for me to allow our leadership team to focus on their duties,” Sheehy said in a statement issued by the company. “I look forward to watching their continued success.”

Sheehy has said previously that he planned to resign from his positions as CEO, president, and a member of the board of directors for the Bozeman-based Bridger Aerospace if he is successful in his campaign against U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, in November. Senate rules would require him to do so.

But the firefighting company that Sheehy built following his career as a U.S. Navy SEAL has also been a key part of his campaign message and its effort to bolster Sheehy’s credentials as a businessman. Sheehy’s campaign released a video on social media Monday in which he discusses being a job-creator and aerial firefighter.

But the company reported concerns about its finances at the end of the year and is facing a lawsuit from two former employees who claim Sheehy and Bridger’s former parent company breached a contract involving stock compensation.

New Bridger Aerospace Executive Chairman Jeffrey Kelter said in a statement the company’s board has been preparing for Sheehy’s possible departure in the year since he announced his candidacy in the race and that 40-year-old chief of staff Sam Davis was in place to step in as the interim CEO.

“Tim has worked tirelessly since he founded Bridger to build an industry leading management team, including individuals with strong aviation, corporate and military backgrounds,” Kelter said. “As a result of this effort, the board is confident in the ability of the company’s executive team to continue to operate our fleet of aircraft to execute the company’s vision.”

A spokesperson for Bridger Aerospace said the company was “not in a position to comment” on whether Sheehy would retain the millions of shares he holds in the company, which went public in January 2023. Neither the company nor campaign clarified if Sheehy would continue as a pilot for Bridger Aerospace.

In his latest financial disclosure form filed with the Senate mid-June, Sheehy said he paid himself $2.4 million from Bridger Aerospace last year. He reported holding between $11 million and $55 million in Bridger Aerospace stock in a trust, a separate LLC and in stock he has not cashed out, according to the disclosure form.

The company also announced on Monday it had acquired an Alabama-based Aerospace company for about $20 million so both businesses could expand. In April, Bridger Aerospace closed on a direct offering of 2.1 million stock shares to raise about $9.8 million. Sheehy bought about 101,000 more shares at the time, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

His latest filing with the Federal Election Commission in mid-May showed Sheehy had contributed $2 million so far of his own money to his campaign out of about $10.5 million raised total.

In a filing with the SEC on Monday, Bridger Aerospace’s chief legal officer wrote that Sheehy’s resignation is effective immediately and that there was no pressure from the board or company for him to resign.

“Mr. Sheehy has confirmed that his resignation is not due to any disagreement with the Company on any matters relating to the Company’s operations, policies or practices,” the filing says.

Following his entry into the U.S. Senate race last summer, Sheehy’s company has been scrutinized because he was relatively unknown to most Montanans but was picked by National Republican Senatorial Campaign Chairperson U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, to run for the seat that Tester has held since 2006 in what will be one of the most expensive and closely watched races in the country. Tester has so far raised $30.4 million during the campaign and has not loaned himself any money.

At the end of last year, the company reported in its annual filing with the SEC in March, Bridger Aerospace was facing challenges in meeting its debt obligations. In the months since, Sheehy and Bridger Aerospace’s former parent company were sued in Gallatin County District Court for an alleged breach of contract involving former employees’ stock compensation.

This year, Bridger Aerospace reported its best first-quarter revenue in company history, however, and said it believes it is on track to meet its earnings projections for the year.

After Bridger on Monday announced Sheehy’s resignation, Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Sheila Hogan claimed his resignation “raises serious questions about Sheehy’s role” in Bridger’s leadership following prior reporting about the company’s finances and with the company’s stock hitting new lows over the past couple of weeks.

At the start of April, Bridger Aerospace stock was trading around $5 per share, but that dropped to around $4.20 by the start of June. The stock opened at $3.78 per share on Monday but closed at $3.50 per share.

A spokesperson for Sheehy’s campaign responded by saying the Democratic Party and Tester campaign were attacking a successful small business in Montana that protects Montanans through its work.

“What Tester and the Montana Democratic Party are saying is that they don’t care about this Montana business, they don’t care about its success or its mission, and they clearly don’t care about the employees because they want to see this company fail because Tim Sheehy is a Republican,” the spokesperson said.

A Republican internal poll, published by Politico and done in early June of 500 likely voters, found Sheehy leading Tester by 3 percentage points, but within the 4.38% margin of error, when including the Libertarian candidate that will be on the ballot. Head-to-head, Sheehy and Tester were tied at 48%.

This story originally appeared in the The Daily Montanan, which can be found online at dailymontanan.com.