Wildcatters: A Story of Texans, Oil, and Money
By Sally Helgesen
2004/02 - Beard Books
1587982161 - Paperback - Reprint - 216 pp.
A straight-from-the hip report on independently financed oil production in the 1980s and the go-for-broke wildcatters who controlled it.
This is the rough-and-tumble story of the great oil millionaires of Texas and of the dynasties they founded. It is the story of dreamers and schemers who took big risks, gambled for the highest stakes, and struck it rich in black gold. Wildcatters profiles three generations of oil tycoons: such pioneer oilmen as Clint Murchison, Sid Richardson, and Monty Moncrief-men who played by their own rules and clinched multi-million-dollar deals with a handshake; their sons who in the years following World War II struggled to preserve their empires, despite ever-increasing government regulations and pressures from giant oil corporations to sell out; and their grandsons, a new breed of independent oilmen whose wheeling and dealing must accommodate the realities of OPEC and the Third World.
From Turnarounds & Workouts, May 15, 2004
Following three generations of Texas oilmen, Wildcatters covers the history of this field of business that has always had the image as a rough-and-tumble business attracting the adventurous and bold.
Helgesen does not spoil the image. If anything, her book gives it support by her portrayals of a number of men of different generations. In those early days of the oil industry in the United States, Texas was the "wild cutting edge of the industry." Before the big oil companies gained control of the business it was "open to any white man who could hustle up the money for a rig, talk a farmer into leasing the mineral rights to his land, and then maintain enough optimism or pigheadedness to drill up his leasehold until he either found oil or convinced himself that he had made a mistake." Helgesen's portrayal of the first generation of Texas oilmen connotes their characteristic energy, enthusiasm, risk-taking, and also their visions of success which were the basis for the myth that grew up around them.
The ones who did tap into deposits of oil used the profits to buy up new leases and founded a dynasty. Monty Moncrief was one such man. A good part of Wildcatters focuses on the life of Dick Moncrief, Monty's grandson. Helgesen sees a symmetry between the first generation and the third generation of Texas oilmen. The second, or middle generation, was left mainly to the task of overseeing the dynasties founded by their fathers. With the giant oil companies supplying the U.S. from abroad with all the oil it needed at low cost, the Texas oil business slowed down. "The young bulls of the middle generation found no terrain on which they might challenge the old bulls' achievements.
But circumstances changed for the third generation. In 1973, the cartel named Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided to raise the prices of its oil. This suddenly made the Texas oil fields competitive again, and also presented opportunities for developing oil fields overseas. Dick Moncrief and other third-generation oilmen throughout Texas sprang into action to pursue the opportunities that had unexpectedly opened up for them. Separated by decades in age from their pioneering grandfathers and facing government bureaucratic regulations in the oil industry, the third generation nonetheless showed something of the same initiative, boldness, enterprise, and ambition as the first generation. By finding overlooked or underdeveloped oil fields in foreign countries, forming partnerships with Mexico's state-controlled oil industry, reviving Texas's moribund oil business, and searching for new oil fields in the West, the younger generation of Texas oilmen made their mark as their grandfathers had.
Wildcatters portrays representative Texas oilmen, and is a well-woven narrative about this legendary sector of American business. Beyond this, Helgesen sees the Texas oil business as exemplifying and to some degree preserving the frontier spirit of overcoming challenges with determination, ingenuity, confidence and optimism.
Before she became known as a top-selling expert on workplace leadership and women's management styles, Helgesen was a journalist who told this macho tale of three generations of Texas oil tycoons across the roller coaster of the 20th century. Originally published in 1981, it's a story (she writes in her introduction) that changed Helgesen into an optimist about the American free enterprise system and a fan of its frontier spirit. In a twee touch that is the result of an apparent effort at Old West design, the typeface appears slightly blurred. The edition has no subject index. Copyright © 2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
Sally Helgesen works as a speaker and a consultant in the areas of leadership and workplace change. She is the author of five books, including The Web of Inclusion: A New Architecture for Building Great Organizations¾also reprinted by Beard Books¾which was cited in the Wall Street Journal as one of the all-time best books on leadership. Articles about her work have appeared in Fortune and other leading business periodicals.