Tulsa businessman George B. Kaiser is the newest co-owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder after buying out the ownership interest of Tom Ward.
Thunder Chairman and CEO Clayton I. Bennett announced the changes Friday after Kaiser received approval from the NBA Board of Governors to buy the stake in The Professional Basketball Club LLC, which owns the Oklahoma City basketball franchise.
“We are honored to welcome George Kaiser as a member of the ownership group of the Oklahoma City Thunder,” Bennett said in a statement Friday. “George is a well-respected and important Oklahoma business leader, as well as one of the state and nation’s top philanthropists. His commitment to successful business and community leadership is in true alignment with that of the Thunder.
“I also appreciate the commitment and leadership provided by Tom Ward as a member of our ownership group from the beginning.”
Kaiser is president, CEO and primary owner of Tulsa-based GBK Corp., parent of Kaiser-Francis Oil Co., which he has managed for 40 years. Kaiser is chairman of the board and majority shareholder of Tulsa-based BOK Financial Corp. and a major shareholder in several energy, oil and gas, mining and technology companies.
“I am pleased to join the Thunder ownership group,” Kaiser said. “I appreciate what Tom, Clay and the other owners have done to make Oklahoma City a big-league city and look forward to joining the continuing effort to gain positive recognition for our state.”
Ward is founder and CEO of Oklahoma City-based Tapstone Energy. He also is co-founder and former president of Chesapeake Energy Corp. and former CEO of SandRidge Energy Inc.
“I am very pleased to have been a part of the group that brought the Thunder to Oklahoma City,” Ward said. “The team has generated tremendous excitement in our city and state. This transaction allows me to have greater focus on the things that I know and care about the most, which include launching new Oklahoma-based energy companies and supporting charitable organizations that demonstrate compassion to those in need.”
Ward previously reported he controlled 19.23 percent of the team. Forbes has estimated the Thunder worth at about $590 million.
Also Friday, several other Thunder owners said they have raised or lowered their stake in the team. MidFirst Bank CEO Jeffrey Records Jr. remains “a significant owner” after selling some of his stake to Bennett, American Energy Partners CEO Aubrey McClendon, American Fidelity Assurance Co. CEO William Cameron and Balon Corp. President Jay Scaramucci.
The ownership interests of Everett R. Dobson, managing partner of Dobson Partnerships; and Robert E. Howard II, chairman of Howard Investments, did not change.