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Changes at SandRidge leave questions about CEO Ward's future

CEO Tom Ward's future at SandRidge Energy Inc. remains a question after the company settled a proxy fight with one of its largest shareholders Wednesday by adding four new board members.
BY JAY F. MARKS Modified: March 14, 2013 at 12:16 am •  Published: March 14, 2013

Tom Ward's future as CEO with SandRidge Energy Inc. is uncertain.

The company's board, which is led by Ward as chairman, on Wednesday added four seats for dissident shareholder TPG-Axon Capital, ending the New York-based hedge fund's takeover attempt.

TPG-Axon's representation on the board will become a majority if Ward is not fired by June 30.

“It looks like Tom Ward's days are numbered here,” Morningstar analyst Mark Hanson said. “If the current board doesn't terminate him in the next three months, it looks like TPG takes control and they will oust him, I'm sure, shortly thereafter.”

Edmond investment adviser Greg Womack said Wednesday's “surprise” agreement seemingly gives Ward a chance to audition for his job.

“He's a great talent. He knows his business,” said Womack, president of Womack Investment Advisers Inc. “He's probably the right man for the job.”

He said the agreement with TPG-Axon gives SandRidge's current board some control over the future of the company. The end of the proxy fight means SandRidge officials can shift their focus to running the company.

“They desperately need to do that,” Womack said.

If Ward were terminated without cause, he would stand to receive nearly $96 million, according to SandRidge's proxy statement filed in April 2012. Ward would be owed nothing if he were terminated with cause.

The proxy does not state what would happen if Ward were to resign or retire.

SandRidge's executive team is changing, no matter what comes of Ward.

Matthew K. Grubb, SandRidge's president and chief operating officer, informed the company Wednesday of his intent to resign to pursue other opportunities. He has been with SandRidge since 2006.

James Bennett has been appointed president to succeed Grubb. Bennett, who had been the company's executive vice president and chief financial officer, will be named interim CEO if Ward is fired.

TPG-Axon had been critical of the compensation SandRidge paid to all three executives because they received more money than executives at other companies in SandRidge's peer group.

Hedge fund nominees Stephen C. Beasley, Edward W. Moneypenny, Alan J. Weber and Dan A. Westbrook were added to the SandRidge board on Wednesday.

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