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Tom Ward launches Oklahoma City energy company

By Adam Wilmoth October 17, 2013
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Tom Ward is back in the Oklahoma City oil and natural gas business.

The former CEO of SandRidge Energy Inc. and co-founder of Chesapeake Energy Corp. has started a new Oklahoma City energy company.

Tapstone Energy LLC has leased space in Oklahoma Tower. The company has “a handful of employees” and is looking for more employees and oil and gas properties, Ward said Thursday during the Bloomberg Oil & Gas Conference in Houston.

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Ward said he is funding the new company himself for now, but that he might consider bringing on other investors.

“Usually my ideas tend to be larger than my pocketbook,” Ward said. “We might need help along the way if we come across an idea worthy of having a partner.”

But for now, Ward said he enjoys working for himself.

>>Read: Aubrey McClendon’s new company secures $1.7 billion to drill in Ohio (published Oct. 10, 2013)

“If you were to go out and say I want XYZ private equity company to invest with me, they tend to be fairly graspy of what they want of my time. If I'm funding myself, I can wake up and decide if I'm going to work at the boy's home or at the office that day,” he said.

Ward received about $50 million when he left SandRidge.

He also recently secured financing from Tulsa banker and oilman George Kaiser. According to documents filed with the Oklahoma County Clerk on Sept. 3, Ward used proceeds from his interest in the Oklahoma City Thunder as collateral for the private loan. The amount of the loan was not disclosed.

Ward said he is still looking for properties to buy. He is focusing on producing properties rather than areas that will require extensive drilling, he said.

“I like areas that are out of favor, maybe natural gas properties. I am long-term bullish on natural gas prices in the U.S.,” he said.

Don't expect Ward to take his company public anytime soon.

“Today is the first time in decades that you have access to private capital,” he said. “When we started SandRidge and Chesapeake, the private equity market was different from what it is today. If we wanted to run a company of any size, it had to be in the public market because that's where the capital was. That's not the case today.”

Ward's recent experience with activist shareholders also may influence his decision to keep the company private. Ward was ousted from SandRidge in June after a proxy fight lasting several months.

Ward on Thursday had clear advice to any CEO engaged in a battle with activist shareholders.

“You always have to have your bags ready to be packed and have thick skin, don't take things personally,” Ward said. “More than that, you just have to perform. Once you're at a CEO level at a publicly traded company, your company has to perform, or you'll be replaced. Investors are expecting to have performance in the company. If that doesn't happen, you can expect to have to move on to something else.”

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