Continental Resources makes board member CEO Jan. 1 as Hamm becomes executive chairman
Harold Hamm agrees the nation’s oil and gas business is in another tough spot as it works its way through a global supply gut that is holding back oil prices and keeping natural gas prices at nearly historic lows.
But Hamm said he sees opportunities in the current market and expressed confidence his Continental Resources operation will exploit those as it operates under the leadership of a new CEO.
Hamm, founder, chairman and current CEO of the Oklahoma City-headquartered company, joined other company executives Wednesday to announce he plans to become Continental Resources’ executive chairman on Jan. 1.
William Berry, a long-time industry veteran who has served as a Continental Resources director since 2014, will assume Hamm’s role as CEO the same day.
Meanwhile, Jack Stark, Continental Resources’ president, will take on an additional role of being its chief operating officer at the start of the year.
Hamm said he sees a current market where there are many private equity-backed oil and gas companies stuck with assets they can’t adequately exploit.
“For us, that is an opportunity for bolt-on acquisitions within our fields, and I expect we will do some of that” as future opportunities present themselves, Hamm said.
“The market will come back for public companies that are in good shape like Continental Resources,” he said. “You have got to know that.”
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In an interview with The Oklahoman on Wednesday, Hamm, Berry and Stark made it clear the changes don’t signal any changes in direction for the company.
Indeed, they reiterated that Hamm, who owns nearly 78% of the company’s stock, intends to remain very much involved.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Hamm said. “I will never transition away.”
Hamm, who led an effort to convince Congress to lift a ban against oil exports from the U.S. in 2015, said he looks forward to continuing to lead advocacy efforts in promoting American-produced oil and natural gas as he also works with Berry and Stark to help Continental Resources cultivate new, strategic opportunities.
“We are living in the new oil era, driven by the American energy renaissance,” he said. “The result is a stronger economy, a stronger energy independent America and a safer world.”
The team noted the company has added significant layers of leadership to its ranks as it grew its employee count from several hundred to more than 1,200 employees.
Berry has more than four decades of oil and gas experience.
“When it came to adding somebody to help us go forward and do even more things than we have done in the past, he was a natural fit,” Hamm said. “This is the right time to bring him on board.”
As an executive at ConocoPhillips, Berry oversaw global operations there, managing more than 10,000 employees and more than $12 billion in capital expenditures.
“Bill gives us an extraordinary opportunity to expand our leadership,” Hamm said. “He brings a notable resume and track record of success, second to none.
“Like me, his DNA is oil and gas exploration and production. He has been my personal confidant and is a trusted advisor that has helped guide our executive team.”
“Bill is the perfect fit for Continental,” Stark said. “He enthusiastically embraces our culture and the way we conduct our business. I am right where I want to be, and Bill has the full support of myself and the entire leadership team as we continue to grow our great company.”
Berry, who earned bachelors and masters degrees in petroleum engineering from Mississippi State University, said it was easy for him to decide to return to Oklahoma fulltime to join the company’s leadership team.
He said the company boasts outstanding leadership and capability, world-class rock, and outstanding cultures of performance and caring for the industry and its people.
“Put all those together, and the decision to come to Continental Resources was very easy," Berry said.
“It’s a great honor to step into a leadership role at Continental,” he said. “I know firsthand the people at Continental are among the most talented, motivated and innovative in the industry.
“The company is hitting on all eight cylinders and doing really well — a high performance, high ambition company. I look forward to partnering with Harold and working with Jack and the entire Continental team on the next chapter of this remarkable company’s future.”
Continental Resources is the dominant oil producer in the Bakken of North Dakota and the a dominant oil producer in Oklahoma from its SCOOP and STACK assets.
Officials have stated its production has reached record levels and that the company routinely is the lowest cost operator among its oil‐weighted peers.
The company has cut its total debt by $1.6 billion in less than three years, repurchased $187 million in stock through the third quarter of 2019 and delivered its first dividend to investors in November.