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SandRidge President James D. Bennett tells employees settlement aimed to end distractions

SandRidge Energy Inc. this week ended its four-month fight with shareholder TPG-Axon in a settlement in which the Oklahoma City energy company agreed to many of the New York shareholder's demands.
by Adam Wilmoth Published: March 18, 2013

An hour after SandRidge Energy Inc. announced its Wednesday settlement with dissident shareholder TPG-Axon Capital, new SandRidge President James D. Bennett told employees the company did not expect to lose control, but opted to settle to end the distraction.

Bennett also said it is unlikely that SandRidge's newly expanded board of directors will sell the company.

TPG-Axon had asked shareholders to approve its plan to replace all seven of SandRidge's directors. The settlement ended a four-month proxy fight two days before the final votes were to be counted.

As part of the settlement, SandRidge agreed to expand its board to 11 to accommodate four new directors selected by the New York hedge fund.

“We don't think we were going to lose the consent. There's always risk around that, though,” Bennett said during the employee meeting, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Oklahoman.

“If we win the consent, then the whole process just rolls over to the annual meeting. So this whole thing — this whole distraction, news campaign, distraction for all of you, uncertainty — would continue for many more months and we didn't think that was the right thing to do for the company. At the annual meeting, you never know what's going to happen there; it's a little different form of consent. So look, adding four new board members now, keeping our existing board members, adding and expanding the board to 11, we think is not that bad of an outcome.”

TPG-Axon in November outlined several steps the board should take to improve the company's stock price. One recommendation was to consider selling the company.

“If you look at the progression of their statements, they've really backed off that,” Bennett told SandRidge employees. “It was easy to come out of the gates in November and say, ‘Sell the company,' but they've backed off that quite a bit. And if you look at the market right now, it's not a great time to sell companies, or even assets. It's kind of a buyer's market. So I don't think that's the case.”

Not everyone shares the sentiment, however.

Industry analyst Mark Hanson said he thinks the most likely scenario at this point is that SandRidge will be bought by either a private equity firm or a larger oil and natural gas producer.

He said the company likely will first sell its Gulf of Mexico assets and then sell the rest of the company.

“You're not going to pick this thing apart. It's really two assets at this point,” said Hanson, an analyst with Morningstar in Chicago. “They're two very different resources: one is onshore, and the other is offshore. One is more prospective while the other is more established. To find a buyer with an appetite for both simultaneously, you're probably going to have to haircut one to take the other. They probably carve off the Gulf of Mexico and sell the remaining company outright to someone.”

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by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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