“With more than 20 years of energy industry and financial experience, including operational oversight and involvement, James (Bennett) will be a strong leader for our experienced management team and talented workforce.”
Ward was terminated “without cause,” which entitles him to more than $90 million in cash and SandRidge stock. He would have received nothing if the board had found cause to fire him.
Ward was not available for comment on Wednesday, but his attorney maintained he was vindicated, despite losing his job.
“Two separate board investigations have now confirmed that Tom Ward's actions were proper. No one has worked harder for or been more loyal to SandRidge Energy than Mr. Ward,” attorney Steven M. Bauer said. “Having weathered this storm, Mr. Ward is looking forward to the next chapter in his career, which he intends to continue in Oklahoma City.”
Ward, who co-founded Chesapeake Energy Corp. in 1989 with Aubrey McClendon, founded SandRidge in 2006 after acquiring a controlling interest in Riata Energy and moving the company to Oklahoma City from Amarillo, Texas. He also owns a stake in the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.
Ward's departure means four of SandRidge's top five executives have left the company since its settlement with TPG-Axon.
Former President Matthew K. Grubb departed as the March 13 settlement was announced, while the company disclosed in late April that executives Todd N. Tipton and Rodney E. Johnson were leaving.
Tipton, SandRidge's executive vice president of exploration, retired. Johnson, the company's executive vice president of corporate reserves and acquisitions and divestitures, left to pursue other opportunities, a regulatory filing showed.
One of the new executives at SandRidge is David Lawler, the former PostRock Energy Corp. CEO whose brother, Doug, took over Monday as CEO at Chesapeake. Lawler has been at SandRidge since 2011. He was promoted to chief operating officer in April.
Bennett, SandRidge's new CEO, told employees Wednesday the vision for the company has not changed. SandRidge remains an industry leader and an instrument for good in the community, Bennett wrote in a memo to employees.
Bennett said the company is well-positioned for success.
“We have more than $1 billion in cash, total liquidity of more than $2 billion, great assets in the Mississippian play and offshore GOM, and a strong team of motivated professionals,” he wrote. “Our operational results and execution continue to be exceptional.
“We have recently made decisions, many financial in nature, to ensure the long-term success of our company, and we will continue to find ways to increase efficiency and enhance profitability.”