Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ward Sets Goals, Grows through Oil Bus Years

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ward Sets Goals, Grows through Oil Bus Years

Article excerpt

By Darrell Morrow

Feature Editor

Lew Ward recalls awakening many times during the middle of the night worrying about keeping his business solvent during the 1980s.

He owed several million dollars on five new oil drilling rigs his company had bought in 1981.

It probably was his good management skills, rather than all the late-night worrying, that kept his business stable. Other businesses all around him were going broke or scaling back during the `oil bust of the '80s.'

Ward's business, Ward Petroleum Corp. of Enid, has been awarded the Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative Award for 1993 by Connecticut Mutual Insurance Co. of Hartford, Conn., the United States Chamber of Commerce and Nation's Business magazine. Ward Petroleum is one of four Oklahoma companies among 198 chosen nationally from 863 applicants for the annual award that was started in 1990.

The Blue Chip program is designed to honor and help small businesses by forming a networking alliance and sharing strategies for success.

"I think that the Blue Chip Award came from the fact that we were able to grow during the downturn from about 1982 when the rig count went from almost 900 down to the 150 range. We were able to maintain our level of activity.

"We drilled approximately 300 wells during that period of time. We participated in over a quarter of a billion dollars worth of drilling and found over 250 billion cubic feet of gas. During that same period of time, we were able to pay off the debt we had accrued for the purchase of five new drilling rigs in 1981. We were able to do that without missing a payment.

"As far as I know, we classify that as a small miracle. There were a lot of good people helping us do it," Ward said.

How was he able to keep his company stable when other oil and gas businesses were sinking down the hole?

"We just didn't pay much attention to what other people were doing. I think being in Enid was an advantage, too. We had our sights firmly set on where we were going, and we just went there," Ward said.

"I'd say we were pretty heavily in debt, but we were bound and determined that we were going to get out. We had a lot of money borrowed against those rigs. It was all in a non-recourse loan. We didn't have to pay it back. We could have parked them in the parking lot down at the bank, but our goal was to pay off those rigs, and so we did that.

"Lots of time in the middle of the night I would wake up thinking about that. Those rigs are all in first class shape now and they are out there working today. They were all new in 1981, and they are all working today for other companies. From inception, we have had an overall utilization rate of 80 percent on those rigs," Ward said.

Ward started in the oil and gas business in 1956 in Enid. He has developed Ward Petroleum Corp. …

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