Keating to travel to Houston to see Conoco chief about headquarters move

Wednesday, January 16th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Gov. Frank Keating is not giving up on his hopes of persuading Phillips Petroleum Co. and Conoco Inc. to locate their combined headquarters in Oklahoma.

Houston-based Conoco and Bartlesville-based Phillips announced plans to merge two months ago. The merged company is to have its headquarters in Houston.

Keating plans to travel to Houston on Tuesday to see Conoco Chief Executive Archie Dunham. The governor met Dec. 7 with James Mulva, Phillips' chief executive officer.

``The governor and Mr. Dunham are friends,'' said Dan Mahoney, a Keating spokesman.

``The governor feels that a sit-down, face-to-face meeting with Mr. Dunham is the next step -- an important step.''

Dunham, who will be chairman of the combined company, has said it makes sense to base the merged company in Houston, which has access to direct overseas flights. Most major oil companies and service contractors are based in Houston.

Jim Day, chief executive of Noble Drilling Services Inc., moved that company from Tulsa to Houston in 1989 after buying an international drilling company based in Houston.

``Our decision was not the result of the business climate in Oklahoma being unfriendly,'' he said. ``We were trying to become a more international driller, and traveling from Houston internationally was an issue.''

Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Co., said Oklahoma should worry less about a given company's headquarters and more about the rest of the company.

``We ought to try to make sure that they keep their accounting office or their refineries here,'' he said.

Oklahoma has several large independent energy-related companies -- Kerr- McGee Corp., Devon Energy Corp., the Williams Cos. --that it should strive to retain, he said.

``I think the powers that be need to find out what those guys need,'' he said, ``to keep them from going to Houston.''