ONEOK companies shuffle top leadership
BY ROD WALTON World Staff Writer
Friday, December 21, 2012
12/21/12 at 4:08 AM
ONEOK Inc. and ONEOK Partners LP shuffled some of their top management Thursday, including one executive who was promoted to his position only a year ago.
Pierce H. Norton II was moved from chief operating officer to executive vice president of commercial activities. He was named COO when the Tulsa-based natural gas companies unveiled their long-term succession plan last December.
Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Robert F. Martinovich will become executive vice president for operations. The title of COO will not exist in ONEOK under what the companies called "a reorganization to further enhance ... commercial and operating activities."
Derek S. Reiners, currently chief accounting officer, will replace Martinovich as CFO and treasurer. Sheppard F. "Mike" Miers III, who is controller, will be chief accounting officer.
The changes take effect Jan. 1.
"Ultimately, these changes will improve our ability to compete more effectively by strengthening our competitive advantage," said John W. Gibson, CEO of both ONEOK companies.
ONEOK will also reorganize its distribution companies - Oklahoma Natural Gas, Kansas Gas Service and Texas Gas Service - with separate leaders for the operating and commercial activities. ONEOK Inc. owns all three utilities and a controlling interest in the partnership which owns and operates gas pipeline, gathering and processing assets throughout the central U.S.
"These changes will allow our three natural gas utilities to deliver service to our customers more effectively and efficiently; continue to operate our assets safely, reliably and environmentally responsibly; and utilize common processes and technologies across all three states to reduce costs and drive commercial and operational consistency," Gibson said.
ONEOK and ONEOK Partners have generated solid earnings and announced growth projects in the past year, but have also found themselves snared in several thorny issues lately. The planned Bakken Crude Express Pipeline, ONEOK's supposed entry into oil transport from the Bakken Shale of North Dakota and Montana, was dropped last month due to a lack of producer commitments.
Trading firm Barcas LLC, meanwhile, sued ONEOK Partners in federal court, alleging fraud and breach of contract over efforts to secure commitments on the Bakken Crude Express. Houston-based Barcas accused the Tulsa leadership of trying to reap the benefits of the Bakken's financial windfall without compensating the trading firm for its efforts on ONEOK's behalf.
Norton was one of the executives singled out in the Barcas complaint. He was quoted as telling the Houston company it was excluded because one producer, Tulsa-based Samson Resource Co., would not work with Barcas leader Kevin Foxx. Foxx was a central figure in the financial collapse and bankruptcy of SemGroup LP four years ago.
The Barcas complaint challenged Norton's assertions.
"In fact, Mr. Foxx had already been contacted by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Co. (KKR), the owner of Samson, regarding the Bakken Express Crude Pipeline project," the complaint states. "When pressed to identify the particulars of Samson's alleged issues with Mr. Foxx, Mr. Norton had no answer. The reason: Mr. Norton's assertion that Samson did not want to work with Mr. Foxx was a total fabrication."
Earlier this month, ONEOK Partners asked a Tulsa federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order against federal pipeline regulators wanting to inspect the company's natural gas liquids fractionation plant in Bushton, Kan. A federal magistrate initially ruled against ONEOK Partners, but U.S. District Judge James H. Payne granted a delay while the challenge against the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration was being considered.
Original Print Headline: ONEOK companies shuffle management
Rod Walton 918-581-8457