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Shareholders To Decide Stillwater Mining's Fate

By MATTHEW BROWN

NYE, Mont. (AP) â¿¿ Shareholders of Montana's largest public company elected former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and three other outsiders to Stillwater Mining Co.'s board Thursday after alleging mismanagement by the current directors.

But the shareholders also re-elected four current board members, including CEO Frank McAllister, meaning the two sides now have even numbers and will be forced to work together after an acrimonious struggle for control of the company.

Schweitzer and the Clinton Group, a New York hedge fund that spearheaded the takeover bid, charged that Stillwater's pursuit of costly foreign mining ventures under McAllister's leadership put more than 1,600 Stillwater jobs at risk and detracted from its core business of platinum and palladium mining.

McAllister countered that the dissidents wanted to take over the company on the cheap, even as it's poised to expand production at its two precious metals mines in the Beartooth Mountains north of Yellowstone National Park.

The aggressive maneuvering for shareholders' votes in the lead-up to Thursday's decision was in many ways reminiscent of a political election, complete with dueling public relations campaigns that included sharp personal attacks by both sides. For Schweitzer, it could be a prelude to a possible run to replace U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, a fellow Democrat who announced last month he's stepping down in 2014 after six terms.

Schweitzer said after the vote, which still must be certified, that electing four members of the dissident group was a "huge victory."

Earlier, Schweitzer's side rejected a proposed settlement to split the board evenly and avoid a vote. The former governor said before the vote that nothing short of McAllister's ouster would be acceptable for his side.

An evenly split board would offer "the worst governance you could imagine," he said then.

But with the shareholder vote effectively producing the same result, Schweitzer said afterward that he was willing to work with the McAllister and the other returning directors for the good of the company.

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