Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC-Based SandRidge Energy CEO Tom Ward Says He Has Much to Be Thankful For

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC-Based SandRidge Energy CEO Tom Ward Says He Has Much to Be Thankful For

Article excerpt

Tom Ward says he owes a lot to Seiling.

Life could've been much better for him growing up. With the help of this northwest Oklahoma community, he was able to overcome a dysfunctional childhood.

Today he is chief executive officer of SandRidge Energy. Prior to that position, he was co-founder, president and chief operating officer of Chesapeake Energy.

"It was a rough background I grew up in, but still, small towns are good," said Ward, who has gone on to become a major player in the energy industry. "My father (Jody) was an alcoholic and died when I was 16. But in Seiling, I was never treated differently than anyone else."

In small communities, youth and sports are a natural mix. He responded when Ken Curtis and other coaches at Seiling High School became a guiding light through Ward's formative years. He competed in everything he could. Small, but quick, he was a handful for opposing tacklers when he carried the ball for the Wildcats football team. He gravitated toward to basketball, track and baseball.

"The great thing about Seiling and other small towns is that everyone is basically the same," he said.

Ward didn't know what he would do beyond high school.

"My senior year I really had to make a decision about college," he said. "Like a lot of people in small towns, I had the opportunity be a truck driver or work for $4 an hour. It seemed like a lot of money at the time."

High school sweetheart

Ward found a romantic interest in Schree Ferguson, a Waynoka girl.

"I met him while I was selling chances on a cake at a baseball game in the summer," she said. "He was playing American Legion baseball. Towns are so small, so they'd join together as one team. He was a catcher."

Their relationship grew, and along the way Ward found another important relationship in his life.

"Church has been part of my life since my last year of high school," Ward said. "It was a fairly dramatic conversion. I've been a strong believer since then. Schree's family was associated with the church and I began going to their church when I was 17. They helped me after my conversion as I chose their church to worship."

Ward decided during his last semester of high school that we would give college a shot.

"I was very fortunate to get to go to college," he said. "I didn't anticipate going to the University of Oklahoma. Put it like this, for a young man from Seiling to go to a major school, whether it's OU or Oklahoma State University or any other that's not a smaller state school, it's an accomplishment."

Ward and Schree married not long after graduation. The couple moved to Norman, and while Ward studied, Schree worked to put him through school.

"I'm glad he went to school instead of me; it turned out a whole lot better," Schree said.

Schree decorated the homes of wealthy women, and the Wards chose to move into a town home.

"Our goal was to have a fireplace," she said. "That was a big deal for us. We never lost that feeling. I think we have nine fireplaces now, and it's still an endearing feeling to walk into a home and have the fireplace as the first thing you see."

Ward graduated from OU in 1981 with a petroleum management degree, and moved to Arapahoe. "I worked very shortly for a company called Mewbourne Oil Co., but only for a few months. I transitioned into brokerage work and began working for myself."

Then came a day in 1983 that would forever change his life.

Ward met a Duke University graduate named Aubrey McClendon.

Competitors, then partners

McClendon and Ward competed for leases near Will Rogers World Airport, but not for long at all.

"I've been partners with Aubrey literally since I met him and continue to do things with him today," he said. "We developed a very close business relationship."

Chesapeake was founded in 1989, became public in 1993, and has grown to become one of the top independent gas producers in the nation. …

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