|PE Movers & Shakers|
Thomas Edelman and Ben Guill, good friends and Princeton University classmates, have had long and successful careers in the oil and gas industry, but their trajectories diverged. Edelman founded and/or headed eight companies, including Range Resources Corp. and Patina Oil & Gas Corp., which was sold to Noble Energy Inc. in 2005 for $3.4 billion. Guill served as co-head of energy advisory boutique Simmons & Co. International and from 1998 to 2007 was president of First Reserve Corp., the country's largest energy-focused private equity firm. Both turned 60 in January.
Their paths intersected many times. Guill's firm sold Edelman companies in the past; Edelman once served as a First Reserve adviser. But they had never worked in the same office until they embarked on White Deer Energy, a midmarket, buy-and-build private equity firm focused on exploration and production, oilfield services and midstream sectors of the industry.
Edelman and Guill each anted up $50 million to a debut fund that closed with $822 million last June. Their mission: to help struggling companies in the industry grow, short of operating them themselves. "We're only really interested in investing in companies in which not just our capital but our contacts and our expertise can help expand and improve the company," says Edelman.
The firm, with a presence in Houston and New York, has bet on four companies, including oil and gas explorer and transporter PostRock Energy Corp.
Their longtime alliances helped. The deal with publicly traded PostRock, for one, came through Eddie LeBlanc, who worked with Edelman at Range and was PostRock's CFO. LeBlanc was hired to turn around the company, which was tied in knots after an embezzlement scheme by former managers. Much of the mess had been cleaned up by the time White Deer came in, "but we hope we can write the final chapter and really build the company," Edelman says.
Edelman and Guill seek opportunities in areas that others may overlook. Despite "growing pains," says Guill, the firm, named after Guill's grandfather's company in the Texas Panhandle, is shooting for an internal rate of return of 25% and a 2.5 to 3 times return on capital. "I knew what we were getting into, after 40-plus years," says Guill. "It's a good fit. Tom's the E&P guy and he can always get the best price. I'm familiar with oil services and equipment, and I'm more of the marketing guy."
Both are steeped enough in the industry to put their money where their mouths are, says Robert Seber, a partner at Vinson & Elkins LLP.
"There haven't been a lot of surprises working together," says Guill. "After spending two years on the road fundraising, if we didn't have it figured out, we certainly did by the end."