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Robert Trigaux

Walter Energy CEO Victor Patrick will retire on eve of company's HQ relocation to Alabama



Victorpatrickas2009ceowalterenergykenhelle Wake up and good morning. Mirror, mirror on the wall, what Tampa Bay public corporation is currently the wealthiest of all? The answer, alas, is the one that's moving its headquarters to Birmingham, Ala. Courtesy of investors' love affair with the stock of Tampa's Walter Energy (ticker: WLT), the producer of coal used in the making of steel enjoys a market value of $4.26 billion.

Neither St. Petersburg's Jabil Circuit or Raymond James Financial nor Tampa's TECO Energy nor Clearwater's Tech Data Corp. can touch that market value. At most, at current stock prices, their values cluster between $2 billion and $3.3 billion.

Walterenergymineno.7broowoodoverlandconveyor Walter, as reported earlier, is moving to the Birmingham area to be closer to its coal mines. (Photo, left: overland conveyor that is part of Jim Walter Resources' expansion of Mine No. 7 in Brookwood, Ala., courtesy of company.)  Here's what we have not reported, so let's catch up quickly:

1. Victor P. Patrick (photo above, by Ken Helle of the St. Petersburg Times), who only became CEO in September, now says he plans to retire to spend more time with his family and address other, "unspecified" priorities. Patrick, 52, also is stepping down as chief financial officer and general counsel, and will not seek re-election to the board, the company said. He joined Walter Energy in 2002. The board plans to begin an external search for replacements immediately. Patrick will remain on the job until successors are named.

RiverchaseGalleriawalterenergyhq 2. Walter says it will hire as many as 79 people when it relocates from Tampa to the top two floors of the Galleria Tower in Hoover, near Birmingham, this year. Twenty-one of Walter's 50 headquarters employeesin Tampa have agreed to make the move and the company hopes to have a total of 100 employees when the office opens in late spring or early summer. Walter Energy said it has agreed to a lease giving it more than 40,000 square feet of space in the 275,000-square-foot, 17-story office building attached to the Riverchase Galleria mall (see photo). 

3. Walter's annual shareholder meetingwill be held April 21 at the Wynfrey Hotel, located at 1000 Riverchase Galleria, next to its new HQ offices.

4. Walter's move is big news for Alabama, which like Florida has been losing corporate headquarters over the years.In December 1998, 48 publicly traded companies called Alabama home. Today, there are 19.

Enjoy Alabama, Walter Energy. I can't say the company was a big player in recent years in making Tampa Bay a greater place to live and work, but it's never, ever good to see a significant headquarters -- in fact, the "richest" by market value -- depart. Tampa Bay's bench strength is lean.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:27am]


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