Endeavor’s Autry Stephens Is Richest US Oilman After Diamondback Deal

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(Bloomberg) — Over the past six decades, Autry Stephens has worn nearly every hat in the oil industry, from trucker to driller to engineer. 

Now he’s poised to don the crown of America’s richest oil tycoon.

On Monday Diamondback Energy Inc. agreed to buy Stephens’s Endeavor Energy Resources for $26 billion in cash and stock. The sale would vault Stephens to 64th place from 130th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index of the world’s richest people, making him the wealthiest oil driller in the country with a fortune valued at $25.9 billion based on the current Diamondback share price.  

A fortune that size would surpass the net worth of Continental Resources Inc.’s Harold Hamm, at $15.4 billion and Hilcorp Energy’s Jeff Hildebrand, who’s worth $17 billion. Charles and Julia Koch, owners of conglomerate Koch Industries are richer, though oil makes up just a portion of their diversified fortune. 

The Endeavor sale is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter. 

Read More: Diamondback Energy Surges on $26 Billion Deal to Buy Endeavor

The deal ends years of speculation over who might buy Endeavor, one of the last remaining closely held producers in the shale-rich Permian region. The son of peanut-and-melon farmers, Stephens, 85, founded the Midland, Texas-based company in 1979 after working for Humble Oil, now part of Exxon Mobil Corp., and stints with the Army Corps of Engineers and with a Midland bank as an oil-and-gas appraiser.

At first his nascent business focused on providing ad-hoc engineering help. It expanded over time to include trucking, well services and roustabout construction. One constant was buying. Stephens bought his first Permian acres shortly after leaving the bank and continued to funnel profits from his company into buying more land and drilling rights.

His insistence on using cash rather than debt to acquire acreage helped him survive the 2008 financial crisis, which crushed oil demand and forced Stephens to shut down almost all of his rigs. The strategy paid off when oil rebounded and the advancement of hydraulic fracking turned the Permian Basin into America’s most productive oil region.

Read More: Texas Reality Star Poised to Become America’s Richest Oil Mogul

The sale terms mean Stephens will keep a foothold in the industry he’s shaped. After the merger, Stephens and his family — Endeavor’s sole equity holders —  will own just under 40% of the combined company. He’s also poised to receive $8 billion in cash. Stephens’s daughter Lyndal Greth, an attorney, is vice chair of the Endeavor board. 

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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Published: 13 Feb 2024, 12:21 AM IST

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