SandRidge Energy (UNKNOWN:SD.DL) seems to be in a state of constant transition, except at the top of the C-suite. At least that's the case until late June when the board will determine current CEO Tom Ward's fate. It's very possible he'll be asked to join his former fellow co-founder of Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK), Aubrey McClendon, for an early retirement. As you'll see below in an excerpt from our premium report on SandRidge, the two have a storied past which could lead to a similarly fated future.
Following is an excerpt, which focuses on the leadership the company, from that report. It's just a sample of one section, but we hope you enjoy it:
SandRidge's chairman and CEO, Tom Ward, was responsible for guiding the company away from natural gas and into liquids-focused assets in 2008 while the competition continued acquiring gas-focused acres. This early adoption toward oil and liquids gives the company a strategic position because it selected choice assets that will generate significant returns for shareholders. However, Ward's days could be numbered as the board, with four new directors appointed by an activist investor, has until June 30 to determine his fate.
Although more oversight is always welcome, Ward and company insiders account for 10% of SandRidge's total shares outstanding, 5% of which is held by the CEO. The 10% ownership should adequately align management's incentives to shareholder value. One additional worry would be Ward's close relationship to Aubrey McClendon. While he recently retired as the CEO of Chesapeake Energy, the pair ran a highly publicized $200 million hedge fund that was scrutinized by regulators. Although no malfeasance was found, the close relationship is a constant concern that needs to be monitored.
One of the apparent casualties of the activist investor revamp was COO Matthew Grubb who resigned from the company after seven years of service. He was instrumental in guiding the company's transition to liquids and helping the company find its now-solid financial footing. Investors need to watch to see if more top talent leaves the company, as this could hamper its ability to execute on its growth plan.
One of the benefits of subscribing to this report is that it comes with a year's worth of updates as key news breaks. The most recent update dove a little deeper into the company's transition at the top. One aspect of that update included a brief look at how SandRidge filled the vacated COO position. Here's a quote from that section of the report:
First and foremost the company announced the promotion of David Lawler to the position of chief operating officer. That position had been vacated when Matthew Grubb stepped down last month. The timing of his departure coincided with the addition of four new board members as part of a settlement with TPG-Axon Group, which had been waging a very public proxy battle with the company.
Given that Grubb had worked for SandRige for the past seven years, concern arose that top talent would begin to leave the firm. With Lawler being promoted -- he was previously an executive vice president of operations -- it doesn't appear that SandRidge is cleaning house nor are all its top executives jumping ship. The company's advanced technical expertise is in the Mississippian, so holding on to its top executives is important for maintaining its competitive advantage in the play.
At the Motley Fool we view leadership as one of the most important areas that investors need to watch. Given current and potential changes at SandRidge in the future, this is an area investors need to really watch closely.