SandRidge Energy CEO shares vision for company

Newly appointed SandRidge Energy Inc. CEO James Bennett is optimistic about the Oklahoma City-based oil company's future as it moves forward under new leadership.
by Jay F. Marks Modified: June 30, 2013 at 5:00 pm •  Published: June 30, 2013

“I think the company is in a very good position right now,” he said. “We plan to continue to support the communities in which we operate and meet the commitments that we've made to Oklahoma City.”

SandRidge is allowing its sponsorship of the Oklahoma City Thunder to expire, but Bennett said the company remains committed to being an active part of the community.

Officials scrutinized the company's budget over the past few months, looking for ways to reduce “noncritical” spending.

“We made reductions in most, really all line items in our G&A (general and administrative) budget, except for one. That was our community giving dollars,” Bennett said. “We made no changes to ... our charitable giving.”

Bennett, a father of three, said he is interested in organizations that serve children, so he is on the board at CASA of Oklahoma County and active in Junior Achievement.

CASA Executive Director Lee Ann Limber said Bennett reached out to the agency, which advocates for abused or neglected children in the district court system, when he moved to Oklahoma City in 2011. He was involved in a similar program in Houston.

“He's very devoted to the cause,” she said.

Bennett started working with CASA as a member of its finance committee, where his expertise proved invaluable. He now serves on the agency's 16-member board.

“He just really brings a lot to the table and to the conversation,” Limber said. “He's been a gift to our program.”

SandRidge also has pared down its capital expenditure budget, choosing to focus on areas of the Mississippian play with the lowest risk and highest returns.

“We identified six what we call focus areas in northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas,” Bennett said. “That's where 90 percent of our drilling will be concentrated this year.”

He said SandRidge controls about 2 million acres in the play, where it was able to increase first-quarter production by 105 percent over the prior year.

The company expects 50 percent production growth in the Mississippian this year, while generating returns of 40 percent at current commodity prices.

“The play is working out very well for us,” Bennett said.

SandRidge decided to invest heavily in infrastructure, including power lines and waste disposal wells, when it started developing the play, so he said the company now has a decided edge over other operators there.

Not for sale

Bennett said he doesn't expect SandRidge to have any more problems with its largest shareholders. He has been in touch with most of them since he was elevated to chief executive.

“They're all supportive of where we're headed,” he said. “We've got all the pieces in place, including the management team, a supportive board, the right asset base and the right balance sheet to execute for the next couple of years.”

Bennett said he is planning to stick around at SandRidge, even though his appointment as CEO led some analysts to predict the company was being readied for sale.

“SandRidge is not for sale. We are in the business to maximize the value for our shareholders and to provide a return for them,” he said. “We, and our board, have made the decision that the best outcome for shareholders is to execute our assets, to take this $2 billion of liquidity, deploy it into the Mississippian and to grow our production and reserves and footprint in the Mississippian.

“We think that's the best outcome for shareholders.”

by Jay F. Marks
Energy Reporter
Jay F. Marks has been covering Oklahoma news since graduating from Oklahoma State University in 1996. He worked in Sulphur and Enid before joining The Oklahoman in 2005. Marks has been covering the energy industry since 2009.
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