TPG-Axon Wants To Oust SandRidge’s Board, Files Lawsuit

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SandRidge Energy Inc. (NYSE:SD) saw one of it major investors, the hedge fund TPG-Axon Capital Management, put forward a proposal today that would see the company’s entire board replaced.

Today’s plan to oust the current board was filed with the SEC. The filing was made in connection with a lawsuit filed by the hedge fund against the company. The lawsuit challenges a decision by the company’s board to shorten the amount of time allowed to shareholders to vote on company bylaws, and the replacement board championed by TPG-Axon Capital Management.

TPG-Axon Capital Management is a New York based hedge fund. The fund owns about 7% of SandRidge Energy Inc. (NYSE:SD), and has been carrying out an activist campaign at the struggling company for some time. The hedge fund, and some of the company’s other investors believe that the company’s assets are worth $20 per share. They advise that the company should be broken up and sold off in pieces.

The market is clearly wary of the valuation placed on the firm by this fund. Today SandRidge Energy Inc. (NYSE:SD) shares are trading at around $6.25. That represents flat trading since the holiday break. For the year to date the company’s shares are down by just under 24%.

Opposition to the TPG-Axon Capital Management deal comes from none other than Prem Watsa, the CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited (PINK:FRFHF) (TSE:FFH). Watsa recently threw his full weight behind the current Sandridge CEO Tom Ward, and his plan to save the company.

Watsa said that he believes Ward is one of the best operators in the energy exploration business and that his plan will make the company a winner in the long term. Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited (PINK:FRFHF) (TSE:FFH) is in possession of around 10% of SandRidge Energy Inc. (NYSE:SD).

TPG-Axon Capital Management CEO, Dinakhar Singh, alleges that Tom Ward and his son, compete with SandRidge Energy, and profit from deals made with the company. SandRidge Energy revealed that it had purchased mineral rights earlier in 2012 from an entity belonging to trusts in the Ward family’s name.

As SandRidge is being accused of misanthropic financial dealings, it is important to take into account the firm’s history, particularly that of its CEO Tome Ward. Ward founded the company in 2006 after he left, regular readers will have guessed, Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK). He co-founded the company in 1982.

That company, and its CEO, Aubrey McClendon, are the veritable master of unusual and excessive “financial misanthropy, though not necessarily malfeasence, and certainly nothing serious enough to lose the top position over”. If the accusations of bad faith rings true at SandRidge Energy Inc. (NYSE:SD), it will be clear that he has not lost that Chesapeake magic.

Old habits die hard, and when your old habits are almost abominably lucrative they tend to never die at all. If his old partner Aubrey McClendon is any indication, Tom Ward will be a difficult man to remove from SandRidge Energy Inc. (NYSE:SD). Mr. Singh and the rest of the company’s board certainly have their work cut out for them.

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