SemGroup's Restructuring Hits Snag

Wednesday, January 7th 2009, 10:28 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A multi-million dollar battle is brewing over the future of Tulsa's SemGroup.  It's pitting a New York grocery store magnate against the energy company's leaders in Tulsa.

John Catsimatidis was in Tulsa three days before Christmas and, just a week after, the New York billionaire gained control of five of the nine seats on SemGroup's board of directors.  He told employees he had no plans to sell off different parts of the company, but instead wants to re-organize SemGroup and keep it in Tulsa.                     

But 16 days later, SemGroup's CEO and the other officers running the company in Tulsa say Catsimatidis has yet to propose a plan to re-organize the company, adding since Catsimatidis came on board, the bidding process for SemGroup's assets, such as SemMaterials or SemCrude, has been chilled.   

Now Terry Ronan wants potential buyers to know he is still actively looking to sell.

"My duty is to get the highest and best value for the assets, whether it's through a sale or a plan of reorganization and we felt it was necessary to clarify that in the market," said SemGroup CEO Terry Ronan.

But, a spokesman for Catsimatidis says Ronan has no authority to continue with such a plan.  Matt Coughlin says Ronan and the company's restructuring officers in Tulsa have other motivations.  

He tells the News On 6, "The officers have a vested interest in keeping it going rather than restructuring the company. It's demoralizing for employees to know that the officers are approving expenses to the tune of $10 million a month in outside consulting fees."

"I think that this is definitely the first point of tension," said Jake Dollarhide with Longbow Asset Management.

Financial analyst Jake Dollarhide says the differing opinion does not help SemGroup recover and says Tulsa residents should keep a wary eye.

"Just be cautious, don't assume that anything is a done deal. Don't assume anything can be worked out, be skeptical. We're talking about a company in Chapter 11 bankruptcy," said Jake Dollarhide with Longbow Asset Management.

Catsimatidis says he plans to present his re-organization plan to the bankruptcy court by the end of the month.

The ultimate decision as to what happens to the company is up to the court and Dollarhide says the court usually looks for the best plan that pays off creditors.