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Gulfport Energy Corp. adds seasoned executive to its board of directors

Gulfport Energy Corp.'s Oklahoma City headquarters is pictured in 2018. [OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
Gulfport Energy Corp.'s Oklahoma City headquarters is pictured in 2018. [OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

A former member of PricewaterhouseCoopers International's senior leadership team has joined Gulfport Energy Corp.’s board.

Al Bledsoe, a past global leader for the firm's Energy, Mining and Utilities Assurance and Business Advisory Group, on Jan. 1 took his place on Gulfport’s board to fill one of two recently-announced vacancies.

Gulfport announced in mid-November that directors Craig Groeschel and Scott E. Streller planned to resign from their positions before the end of the year. It also announced its chairman, David L. Houston, had decided not to stand for re-election to his post when his term expires this year.

Company officials stated then they were working with a nationally recognized search firm to identify and evaluate new independent director candidates as a part of an ongoing board refreshment process.

Jake Dollarhide, CEO of Tulsa-based Longbow Asset Management, said this week that Bledsoe fits the profile of what the company needs.

“Gulfport is not alone,” Dollarhide said. “There are a lot of highly leveraged, less diversified, smaller oil and gas players in this wreck of an energy industry that are under immense pressure to get their stock prices higher, reduce debt and to revamp themselves from a leadership perspective by bringing more adults to the table.”

Bledsoe, he said, is a seasoned industry executive that holds the skills and experience most oil and gas companies would hope to have on their boards.

“That should help the company as it navigates these treacherous waters,” Dollarhide said.

The past couple of months have been eventful for Gulfport.

Besides announcing the resignations from its board, it also announced it would suspend a share buyback program started earlier in 2019 and that it had completed a process to reduce its staff by 13%.

Shortly after that, the company’s ongoing efforts to return value to shareholders was criticized by Firefly Value Partners, an investment fund that owns nearly 10% of Gulfport’s stock.

Firefly published a letter that accused Gulport’s leaders of refusing to engage in talks about potential new board members and about other changes Firefly executives believed are needed to improve the operator’s value to shareholders.

A spokesman for Gulfport, however, disputed that characterization, noting that top Gulfport and Firefly executives had discussed the fund’s concerns as shortly before the letter was published.

Gulfport CEO David M. Wood stated in Thursday’s announcement that Bledsoe is a welcome addition to the company’s board as an independent director.

Bledsoe, the announcement noted, brings the number of board members at Gulfport to seven, with six being independent.

At PricewaterhouseCoopers, Bledsoe served in various senior roles, including as its audit and senior relationship partner with some of the firm’s largest energy industry clients.

Bledsoe serves as a director and audit committee chair of Crestwood Equity GP LLC, the general partner of Crestwood Equity Partners, a natural gas and crude oil logistics master limited partnership holding company. He also serves as a director and audit committee chair on the board of SunCoke Energy Inc..

“Al is an experienced finance and public accounting executive with strategic planning, managerial and leadership expertise, having led the development and execution of market and sector strategies for clients in the energy, mining and utilities industries for PwC,” Wood stated as part of the release.

“In addition, he brings significant experience with capital markets and financing activities, having worked with clients in due diligence and financing of large merger and acquisition transactions."

Dollarhide, meanwhile, noted that energy was the worst performer in 2019 among 11 sectors that make up publicly-traded companies on the S&P 500.

And while he said the past has shown that a sector often rebounds after a bad year, he added that energy has been a poor performer the past eight.

Regardless, adding Bledsoe makes sense for Gulfport, he said.

“Every company is unique and has the ability to right the ship,” he said, “and it is important to make moves like this to give yourself the highest probability to survive, or, if things come back, to differentiate yourself from some of these other smaller players that are struggling in this environment.”

Jack Money

Jack Money has worked for The Oklahoman for more than 20 years. During that time, he has worked for the paper’s city, state, metro and business news desks, including serving for a while as an assistant city editor. Money has won state and regional... Read more ›

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