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OIPA member David LeNorman, left, presents a check

David LeNorman checks his email at his office at L

David LeNorman, center, is joined by LeNorman Oper

Passion unlimited: David LeNorman's loves drive business success, unselfish acts

March 19, 2013

David LeNorman doesn’t hide his passions.

The OIPA and Wildcatters Club member is an unabashed champion of the oil and natural gas industry.

He is unafraid to speak his mind on politics.

And, for the sake of the health of countless Oklahomans, he is unselfish in sharing the wealth he has built since forming his own company in 1994.

The Businessman

As the son of a Getty Oil chemical engineer and the grandson of a Magnolia Petroleum Company veteran, LeNorman was all but destined to enter the oil and natural gas industry. After graduating from Duncan High School in southern Oklahoma, he received his bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Wyoming and a master’s degree in the same from Oklahoma State. He also holds an MBA from Oklahoma City University. 

“I used to say I only went to schools where the mascot was a cowboy or Indian,” LeNorman said. “But OCU changed their mascot from the Chiefs to the Stars, and now I can’t say that anymore.”

Fresh out of college, he started a 10-year career at Texaco, quickly rising the corporate ladder.

“I had a supervisor in Velma who said, ‘You’ll never be satisfied at a big company because things don’t happen fast enough,’” LeNorman said. “I moved up pretty quick at Texaco, but I always knew I would do something on my own.”

When Texaco closed its Tulsa office, LeNorman took a voluntary buyout, giving him one month of salary for each of the 10 years he was a company employee. With 10 months of salary secure, he took $120,000 from his 401K and set out on his own.

“It was me, my computer and my kitchen table,” LeNorman said. “I sold everything I had. Sold my house. Sold my cars. I had a Honda Accord, a two-bedroom apartment and my company.”

That company was LeNorman Energy, and it was soon paired with LeNorman Partners. In 2002, eight years after the sister companies were formed, LeNorman sold them both to Denver’s Patina Oil and Gas Corp. for just shy of $120 million

Asked to join the Patina staff in Denver, LeNorman helped turn the sleepy $700 million Denver-Julesberg Basin player into a $3.5 billion merger with Noble Energy Inc.

When I started out, it took seven or eight years to get to the first critical mass,” LeNorman said. “I looked around town, and the guys who took money off the table serially seemed to me to be the ones that made the most money. There are very few Harold Hamms or Aubrey McClendons or Tom Wards.”

To date, LeNorman has built and sold 11 companies that he has had control of. There have been three Crusader Energies, Two Knight Energy that rolled into one company and went public as Crusader Energy Group. White River Energy was the next and the $100 million selling price for it allowed LeNorman to fund his own ventures, operating under LeNorman Properties and Trilandic Lenorman Partners.

“We’ve had tremendous success,” LeNorman said. “Our serial monetization and our core competencies have always been transferable.”

LeNorman’s newest company, Templar, made its first acquisition in December and is “loaded for bear,” LeNorman said, as his staff evaluates potential acquisitions.

Through all of his business ventures, LeNorman has surrounded himself with the same core group of people. It’s a staff that has been hand-picked, where turnover is non-existent and future employees are recruited.

“I’ve been successful not at just finding the right skill set, but the right type of people. Some people just don’t jive,” LeNorman said. “I found the 20 or so employee size is the best. You know everyone pretty well. You know their family.  I had 70 or so employees at one time, and the first time I had the I-just-heard-this-guy-made-more-than-me conversation, I realized it wasn’t for me.”

The Donor

LeNorman’s business successes have made his passion for charitable giving even stronger.

In 2002, LeNorman lost his 5-year-old daughter, Taylor, to cancer. Heartbreak turned to hope in the following years, after a phone call from OIPA board member Tommy McCasland III, a high school friend of LeNorman from his days in Duncan and, along with LeNorman, part of a new generation of Stephens County oil and natural gas producers.

As part of a joint venture with Comanche County Hospital in Lawton and Jackson County Memorial Hospital in Altus, Duncan Regional Hospital was seeking funds to create the Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma. The three centers would share resources and give cancer patients greater access to radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

“He says if you put a million in, I’ll put a million in,” LeNorman said. “Coming from small town Stephens County, it hurt that town to lose children to cancer. I was amazed at the outpouring of support.”

With the support of the two oilmen, another $700,000 gift from the McCasland Foundation and a string of donations from Stephens County residents, more than $4 million was raised to construct and fund the $2 million-plus cancer treatment center that now bears the name of LeNorman’s young daughter.

And the giving didn’t stop there for LeNorman or his group of tight-knit employees.

Following the sale of each and every one of LeNorman’s business ventures since the Taylor Le Norman/McCasland Cancer Center opened in 2008, LeNorman’s employees have given to the Duncan Regional Hospital Foundation to support the continued success for the cancer center.

“Right out of their pocket,” LeNorman said.

LeNorman has also become a distinguished donor for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading pediatric treatment and research facility focused on children’s catastrophic diseases. And he’s a donor for Hearts for Hearing, an Oklahoma-based hearing health program for children and adults whose main goal is to provide funding for the initial set of hearing aids for all deaf or hard-of-hearing children in the state.

“Almost everything we do is children oriented,” LeNorman said. “That’s just a heartstring for us.”

The Advocate

No stranger to political action, LeNorman is an Inner Circle member of the OIPA’s Wildcatters Club of Oklahoma, the most exclusive and important industry group in Oklahoma. The political contributions from Inner Circle members help fund OKIEpac, the OIPA’s political action committee, and have ensured the OIPA has remained the predominant energy industry political player in the state.

“I get asked a lot if I’m interested in going into politics,” LeNorman said. “I tell them, ‘Absolutely not.’ I’m more interested in supporting level-headed people.”

In December, he became the sixth $500,000 contributor to the OIPA’s Capital Campaign, joining Harold Hamm, Chesapeake Energy Corp., Devon Energy, Apache Corp. and XTO Energy as the leading donors to the OIPA’s efforts to construct its permanent headquarters.

“Dave is a classic Oklahoma success story, and he continues to give back to our industry and the community,” Capital Campaign Chairman Ronnie Irani said. “He shares the same characteristics as our other Legacy donors. They see the need. They see the purpose and they want to be a part of it.”

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