Williams Shareholders Vote To Approve ETE Merger Monday

Monday, June 27th 2016, 9:11 am
By: Emory Bryan

The shareholders of Tulsa's Williams Companies approved a merger that would move the company headquarters to Dallas if the rest of the deal comes together.

The holdup is that the other half of the merger, Energy Transfer, wants out and doesn’t think it’s possible to meet the Tuesday deadline.

Friday, a judge ruled that ETE could back out of the deal, but Monday, Williams filed to appeal that decision and said it’s still ready and able to complete the merger.

6/24/2016 Related Story: Judge: ETE Partnership Can Terminate Williams Merger

There's lots of speculation the merger over, but it's not really over until Tuesday when a deadline passes to finalize the merger.

Williams continues to say it's ready for the merger, daring Energy Transfer to back out.

Monday’s meeting was short, and the outcome was expected - shareholders, with an 80 percent approval, voted for the merger with Energy Transfer. The voters were mainly large shareholders, but a small group of local shareholders did vote against it.

"I'm sure many of those people in the room were like us and voted ‘no,’ but the institutional investors and the hedge fund people would be voting ‘yes’ and it appears they did," said Mike Neal with the Tulsa Chamber.

Williams publicly urged shareholders to vote for the merger, in a move that would transfer company headquarters to Dallas and eliminate virtually all of the 900 or so employees in Tulsa.

The speculation the merger will fall apart in 24 hours is encouraging for Tulsa business leaders.

Williams shareholder, Jeff Dunn said, "It all could go away, and the good news for Tulsa, now we have a good chance to retain one of the most important employers in our community."

Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett believes the Williams merger is dead but worries it's a temporary victory.

"Williams Board has shown the desire to try and sell the company. So we want to make sure that our relationship with the board, with the management of Williams, and with ETE, remains strong, and solid and supportive of Williams staying in its hometown," Bartlett said.

It could all be a legal strategy - with ETE saying it needs more time, and Williams pushing the deadline, both could avoid substantial fees that come into play if they purposely pull out of the process.

“There’s a lot of money involved for penalties that each company doesn’t want to be accused in court, to put it in jeopardy if it appears they’ve done something to make it go away,” Bartlett said. “At a certain point Tuesday, if the transaction has not closed, and we assume it won’t, then they have the right to walk away penalty free.”

This all began back in September 2015, when news broke the company planned to move Williams to Dallas once the deal was done.

Williams Launches Appeal of Merger Ruling in Delaware Supreme Court