|PE Auction Stars|
Indeed, private equity has fallen in love with energy, leading to bigger and bigger deals -- Apollo Global Management LLC's $7.15 billion purchase of El Paso Corp.'s oil-and-gas assets most recently. The reasons range from the tens of billions of dollars of raised money looking for a home to fabulous returns some firms have earned as commodity prices have risen. "Private equity is responding to the investment opportunity, and they're responsive to their customers, who are trying to find more ways to put money into energy," Holt says.
The increasing involvement of private equity in energy is one of the reasons Holt bolted to the firm in 2007 from Goldman, Sachs & Co., where he had made managing director three years earlier. "There were these billion-dollar companies that were doing unbelievable things every day, and I wanted to move Goldman into the sale of assets and do more with private companies. I also wanted to take on smaller projects. That's not where the firm wanted to take the franchise," he says.
Holt's decision was obviously motivated by the fact that he got his name on the door. But he says it was also the ability to work again with Bobby Tudor, whom he knew at Goldman, and to get to know Dan Pickering, whose research had earned a reputation for being not only good but also having a sense of humor, sometimes self-deprecating.
Observers say Holt was a good addition to a firm that was still finding a place for itself in investment banking. "Maynard has terrific relationships and, as a result, very informative insights about the industry," says Apollo managing director Sam Oh, whom Holt advised on the El Paso purchase as well as the $800 million sale of Parallel Petroleum LLC last year to Samsung C&T Corp. and Korea National Oil Corp. "TPH, given its pure energy focus, affords it the ability to be the 800-pound gorilla in the sector, but at a lean 95 pounds."
Holt has worked on some of the biggest energy deals in the past year, including advising Houston oil-and-gas explorer Apache Corp. on its $2.85 billion purchase of EnCap-backed Cordillera Energy Partners III LLC in January and KKR, NGP, Crestview Partners and Itochu Corp. on their purchase of family-owned Samson Investment Co. last year for $7.2 billion. He's also advised on smaller deals, including working with Western Gas Partners LP on its 2010 purchase of a natural gas-gathering system in Colorado's Wattenberg area from Anadarko Petroleum Corp. for $498 million. He's also labored on joint ventures that have been popular in the industry, including advising Denver's GMT Exploration Co. LLC and Armstrong Oil & Gas Inc.'s 70 & 148 LLC last year on an $800 million joint venture deal with Spain's Repsol YPF SA to explore for resources in Alaska and Pioneer Natural Resources Co. on its $1.36 billion hookup with India's Reliance Industries Ltd. in 2010 in South Texas' Eagle Ford Shale.
Holt says he and his fellow TPH investment bankers spend about half their time on deals involving private equity. But they also do board-level advisory work, classic strategic M&A and initial public offerings and now have 10 technical people as part of the investment banking team. "We develop close relationships with clients," he says. "We want to understand their problems, what they're trying to do, and help them to get to where they want to go."
Holt, 45, grew up in Tennessee but finished high school in Oklahoma. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics and Russian at Rice University (also Tudor's alma mater), worked in the energy group at Smith Barney in Houston and went on for a master's in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University before joining Goldman Sachs in 1994. He started in project finance in New York, shifted to the energy group in 1997, then moved to Houston in 2003. One of his biggest deals at Goldman Sachs: advising Pogo Producing Co. on its $3.6 billion sale to Plains Exploration & Production Co. in 2007.
Holt says his business philosophy is to find people he'd like to do business with who value what the firm does and have an interest in a longer-term relationship. "We approach every problem by asking what we would do if we were this client, and we try to answer the question as best we can," he says. "That's how we orient everything we do. We just try to answer the question, 'What would we do if we were them?' every step of the way."
Holt says private equity is here to stay in energy. "It's become part of the landscape. It shows up in every facet of the business: It's partnering with industry directly, and it's starting to look more like industry itself," he says. "They've gone from a financing source in a mostly U.S. context to a global player and influential constituent."
While times are good, with the possibility of the U.S. becoming energy-independent given new technology-enabled shale discoveries and deals flowing around that, Holt is concerned about where things are headed.
"Oil is in its heyday. We've found great new techniques to find it, and in the right place, meaning here in the U.S., and there's every reason to want to own it, no matter your outlook on the world," he says.
"Everyone's predicting natural gas will eventually be better and oil eventually won't be as good, but over what time frame that happens and how much that spread narrows, no one obviously knows. But it's the trend to watch."