Mike Stice, chief executive of Access Midstream, worked worldwide before being wooed in 2008 to join a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy Corp.
Access spun off Chesapeake in July 2012, with the help of private equity firm Global Infrastructure Partners. And now there’s more change ahead.
Tulsa-based Williams Cos. Inc. has bought Global’s stake in Access for nearly $6 billion with plans to merge it with its own midstream subsidiary, Williams Partners LP.
Change has been the norm for Stice’s career. Over nearly three decades with ConocoPhillips, he lived in more than 20 different houses across several continents. But one constant is that Stice has worked mostly in midstream — or laying pipeline so producers can bring their resources to market.
Today, Access is active in the explosion of shale plays across the U.S. from Wyoming, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Oklahoma. The company is worth $13 billion and employs 1,500, Stice said.
From his office at 525 Central Park Drive, Stice, 55, sat down with The Oklahoman recently to talk about his life and career. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Your office nameplate reads J. Mike Stice. What does the J stand for?
A: John, which is also my dad’s first name. I went by John through fifth grade, but decided to change to Mike in sixth. There were about five other Johns in my class. Plus, I was tired of my dad and I both showing up every time my mom yelled “John.”
Q: What did your dad do?
A: He served 30 years in the Army, including two tours in Vietnam, and retired as a full colonel. Then, he worked 10 years as director of the Texas Department of Corrections. He and my mom, 83 and 81, live in Huntsville, and my sister, who’s 60 and a retired school teacher, lives nearby. Originally from southwest Arkansas, my parents married as teenagers, and my dad — who was 6-foot-4, 250 pounds — played football (offensive tackle) for OU under Bud Wilkinson for one year. After he hurt his knee, he joined ROTC, and I grew up as a military brat. When I was in the second through fourth grades, we lived in Frankfurt, Germany, where I was a Boy Scout and learned to love Wiener schnitzel and other German foods. From the fifth through seventh grades, we lived in D.C., where I joined the Boys Club and played baseball and soccer.
Q: What brought you to Oklahoma?
A: From Washington, we moved to Lawton where my dad was battalion commander and I found American football. My junior year in high school, we moved to Norman, and my dad worked in downtown Oklahoma City as a military recruiter. Initially, I was mad at my dad for moving us; I left a girlfriend behind in Lawton. But at Norman High School, I met Joni, who’d become my wife and the love of my life. I also made the starting football team, and we made it to the playoffs that year.
Q: And college?
A: As one of the valedictorians in my class, I went to the University of Oklahoma and chose the toughest major possible: chemical engineering/pre-med. But, working as an EMT at Goddard Health Center, I discovered medicine wasn’t as romantic as I’d pictured. I pledged Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, and Joni was a little sis. We married after my junior year, and starved for several years. She, for the first three to five years, made all the money working as a court reporter.
Q: What was your first professional job after graduation?
A: Procter & Gamble wanted to hire me, based on some chemical engineering research I’d done. But Joni couldn’t see moving that far way — Cincinnati. The irony is I took a job in Hennessey with Conoco, and then we, over the next 27 years, lived in 21 different houses — including in Oklahoma City, Houston, Louisiana, two years in Lisbon, two years in Singapore and six years in Qatar. I also worked up to six-month assignments in Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and elsewhere. I served most recently as president of ConocoPhillips Qatar. I also worked as vice president of Global Gas LNG, as president of Gas and Power and as president of Energy Solutions, in addition to other roles in ConocoPhillips’ upstream and midstream business units.
Q: Aubrey McClendon recruited you to Chesapeake Energy Corp. in November 2008. How’d you know Aubrey?
A: I had lots of dealings with him from 1989 to 1991, when he was an independent, struggling oilman and I was district manager over pipelines here for Conoco. But a search firm approached me about the Chesapeake job. I think Aubrey thought he was coming to save us from the Middle East. But in reality, we loved it there.
I was president of the business unit and we were building what, at the time, was the largest plant for liquefied natural gas. Qatar is the capital, so the embassies were all there, and there was lots of social stuff to do. Joni and I had gone on a safari in east Africa, and she was doing volunteer stuff in Africa. We were meeting people from all over. But Aubrey’s pitch was that he needed me, and he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. My parents, and Joni’s mother, also were getting older, so it made sense to come home.
Q: You hold master’s and doctorate degrees. What was your motivation for extended study?
A: When I was 21, I made a list of goals, including getting my MBA at age 35; I was a year late, and my doctorate by age 50; I was 52. When I was ready to pursue the former, Conoco didn’t think it was necessary. But rather than lose me, they sent me to Stanford, where I, as a Sloan Fellow, studied 18 months to earn a master’s in business. It was a great complement to my technical chemical engineering degree, and I fell in love with organizational behavior and leadership classes. I paid for my doctorate in education on my own, which wasn’t easy. Not long after I started it at George Washington University, I was transferred to the Middle East. So, once a month, I’d fly from Qatar to London and land in D.C. 30 minutes before my weekend classes started. It took me six years to finish.
Today, I’m an adjunct teacher in the OCU Meinders School of Business and in January, will teach a leadership class in the executive MBA program at OU.