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SandRidge Energy shareholder expects company to be sold after proxy fight

Jay F. Marks Published: April 16, 2013

Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa is SandRidge Energy Inc.’s largest shareholder. His Fairfax Financials held about 12.7 percent of SandRidge’s outstanding stock as of February.

Watsa, who is known as the Canadian Warren Buffett, was largely silent during the Oklahoma City oil company’s proxy fight with TPG-Axon Capital, which ended last month with the hedge fund gaining a foothold on SandRidge’s board while pushing CEO Tom Ward toward the door.

Watsa wasn’t too optimistic about the company’s future when he talked to an investor about SandRidge recently at Fairfax Financials’ annual shareholder meeting in Toronto.

“It’s unfortunate, but we think that TPG is just going to flip it and sell it,” he said. “I mean yeah, we are going to make money on this, but we think that if Tom stayed in and grew value into the business, we think it could be worth 20-something a share.”

SandRidge was trading for less than $5 a share on Tuesday.

Watsa repeatedly expressed his support for Ward, whom he called an “amazing individual.” He praised Ward’s accomplishments at SandRidge and as co-founder of Chesapeake Energy Corp. with Aubrey McClendon.

“The man grew up living and breathing oil and gas. He helped built two great empires all from nothing,” he said. “We were really disappointed, because we knew that Tom could realize significant amounts of the assets. While we did disagree a little on the compensation, we think that Tom is great.”

The Fairfax team believes TPG-Axon ignored the long-term value of SandRidge’s holdings in the oil-rich Mississippian play as it pushed for control of the company, contributor Wilson Wang wrote for investment research site Seeking Alpha. Fairfax also is bullish on natural gas.

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