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Le Norman: Perseverance, shared goals key to success

March 07, 2018
David Le Norman gets asked a lot about building companies.

That’s no surprise. Through the course of more than two decades, he’s formed 12 companies, raised more than $1 billion in equity, and sold assets for more than $3 billion.

There’s no secret, he said.

“It’s just hard, grinding work, and surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you,” he told the crowd at the OIPA’s Wildcatter Wednesday Luncheon in Oklahoma City on March 7.

And that timeline was not without its ups and downs.

“There’s a $300 million zero up there,” he said. “The sun is not always shining on those Chinese-made solar panels, and the wind is not always blowing on those Norwegian companies’ turbines.”

Perseverance is key, according to Le Norman.

“Winston Churchill said success is walking from failure to failure with the same amount of enthusiasm.”

Through those startups, Le Norman has focused on three things.

Pick an opportunity-rich focus area.

“We’re fortunate in Oklahoma to have many stacked plays,” he said. “The rock doesn’t necessarily have to be great if you’re diligent and pick where it’s stacked up.

The right area will be a geologic setting that can be profitable, and without prohibitive barriers to entry.

Assemble the right people.

Pick employees with the right skill sets and common goals and alignment, he said.

“All my people own equity,” Le Norman said. “I’ve had so many of my people be successful to the point they can retire or move on.

Choose the right capital partner.

“Make sure their goals are aligned with yours,” he said. “How long are you planning to do what you’re going to do? That has to match their plans. Also watch for teams working in the same area.

“When oil goes from $140 to $25 in 18 months, gas from $13 to $2, you can get misaligned.

“You always pick your partners in adversity.”


Since Le Norman’s current company, Templar Energy, opened its doors in December of 2012, oil has gone from roughly $100 to $25, natural gas from $8 to $2.

“We learned from previous issues, and we were able to survive by making deals and buying our debt back before things got really bad,” Le Norman said.

Templar has produced 45 million BOE from about 4 million feet of pipe. They operate about 1,000 wells, half of which are horizontal.

Templar has a pretty large acreage position — and it’s always for sale, he said.

“We’re always looking to enhance value for our stakeholders, and that includes our employees and unit holders.”

Templar has drilled about 270 wells over the past four years, he said.

“As we’ve compressed the cost, we were able to drill more and more things that we weren’t able to drill even three or four years ago at these prices.

“That takes some doing. That comes from people being aligned.”


Le Norman said there’s a reason he doesn’t worry about whether the industry will get through to the other side of any given problem.

“Energy folks show up. They show up for the neighbor whose house got destroyed by the tornado. They show up for one another. So many of our people give their time and money to charities.

Le Norman showed a slide packed with the logos of the charities and non-profits supported directly by oil companies or their employees.

“Our industry is constantly being attacked from just about every angle. But this is an industry and a group of folks that will rally for just about every cause.

“We’ve been defeated in many battles, but we always come back together and recover.”

Le Norman is currently the president of the OIPA’s Wildcatters PAC, the organization’s fundraising arm.

“We need more Wildcatters,” he said. “The PAC is political action. We’re seeing it in the extended laterals that we’re all benefiting from. We’re seeing it in what it took to fight off the GPT increase, and that’s still going on. We’re going to be under fire again and again.

“I put money in, but I freeloaded for a long time because I didn’t really understand what the Wildcatters PAC did.”

Many new legislators need an “Oil and Gas 101” lesson, he said. “We have to get really good with our messaging. It’s amazing that an industry that provides a double-digit percentage of the state’s GDP and pays 25 percent of all taxes collected can still get attacked.”

When you’re an OIPA member, you pay dues, but the PAC specifically targets advocacy, both regulatory and legislative. We have to have money to fend off these attacks.

Le Norman pointed out that oilfield service companies make up about 40 percent of OIPA membership, but 96 percent of those are not Wildcatters. Upstream companies also make up about 40 percent, but 90 percent of that group are not Wildcatters as well.

“Realize, we are all benefiting from the efforts of a few. I did it for years, so now I have no problem telling people they need to step up and donate to the PAC. It’s vital.”
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