Petrohawk Chair Says Buy, Sell and Recreate

Published on February 17, 2010

Petrohawk Chairman Says Spirit of Entrepreneurism Can Live In Bigger Companies

Petrohawk chairman Floyd Wilson spoke about risk and reward before a packed audience at a Distinguished Leaders Series talk in February.

A talk on entrepreneurship is not what you would expect to hear from the chairman and CEO of a $10 billion publicly traded company. But at a recent Distinguished Leaders Series, presented by Sequent Energy Management, Floyd Wilson of Petrohawk Energy Corporation explained why the title of his speech, “Entrepreneurship in the Energy Industry,” wasn’t such a stretch.

“What I’m going to tell you today, could probably only happen in America,” Wilson said.

Wilson grew up on army bases and got his start in the energy industry as a completion engineer in Houston in the early seventies.

“When I started my first company, I started it with less than $50,000 . . . much, much less in fact.”

He continued to grow his company Hugoton Energy through strategic acquisitions and issued an initial public offering in 1994. Three years later, Wilson sold the business to Chesapeake for $380 million.

His next venture, 3TEC Energy, followed a similar trajectory. Purchased in 1999 for a little over $20 million, the company acquired key drilling assets in the gulf coast and South Louisiana and sold for $440 million to Plains Exploration & Production four years later.

His most successful entrepreneurial move though, Wilson said, was with Petrohawk Energy Corporation, a Houston-based exploration and production company that develops shale assets in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Sequent Energy EVP Pete Tumminello (left) and Dean Arthur Warga present Wilson with a token of thanks after the event. Sequent Energy re-branded the leadership series with an energy focus last fall.

“When we started Petrohawk, we got 16 people together, put in what money we could, and we took a lot of risk. Two and a half years in, we sold everything and put it back into the land,” he added. “Since then, we’ve doubled size in terms of proven reserves and production growth.”

By now, Wilson has perfected the framework for a successful exit strategy — “If you find something that works, it’s okay to do it more than once. Buy, sell, recreate and make it a little better each time.”

Plus, being in the business of natural gas could not be timelier, he said.

“It’s great to get into something that meshes with our current environment, and natural gas does. Because of our shale plays, it’s homegrown in America, it’s clean, and it’s the best and nearest solution for gaining energy independence.”

Wilson elaborated, “No matter what we want to think about global warming, supply and demand or energy conservation, U.S. energy demand will grow at 40 percent in the next decade, and natural gas burns a lot cleaner. It just does; that’s the bottom line.”

He expects Petrohawk will eventually be bought, but for now, he enjoys being in a business he loves while working with people he enjoys – several of whom have been with him since the beginning. When asked about his personal transformation from worker to leader, he said it’s not that big of a deal.

“I was never a great engineer and I was never a great financial guy either. But I had a great talent of identifying and attracting really strong people in their disciplines to help me run my business,” Wilson said. “That’s the transition I’ve made. In my first couple of companies I wanted to have my thumb on every single thing. My advice, pick strong colleagues and let them do what they can do well without micromanaging.”

By Lori Reichardt