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Texas Jury Sides with Pickens, Mesa in Permian Deal Gone Awry

A Texas jury last week awarded T. Boone Pickens and his company, Mesa Petroleum Partners LP, up to $146 million after ruling that Permian Basin operators conspired to cheat the oil magnate out of well ownership interests in West Texas.

Mesa in 2007 signed an agreement with Baytech LLP and J. Cleo Thompson to participate in acquiring wells in the Red Bull area of Reeves and Pecos counties. Mesa paid more than $125,000 to Midland, TX-based Baytech for its 15% share in the partnership and paid $75,000 to Thompson, the operating partner. According to the lawsuit, the exploration companies, which also included Patriot Resources and Delaware Basin Resources, were to notify Mesa and offer it an opportunity to invest in every interest in the Red Bull area acquired between 2007 and 2012.

Mesa argued that Thompson and the producers violated the terms of the investment contract, which potentially was worth up to $1 billion. The companies were accused of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties, tortious interference with a contract and fraud. In its ruling, the 143rd State District Court jury agreed and said the settlement should be split among the operating units (Mesa Petroleum Partners LP v. Baytech LLP, et al., No. 15-04-20996-CVR).

"We are very grateful to the jury for their time in reaching a fair conclusion to this case," a Pickens spokesperson said. "We have maintained from the beginning that Mesa's oil and gas interests were taken illegally. The Red Bull is part of what is now one of the biggest resource plays in the world, and we are hopeful that the jury's decision here will mean that the long history of fair dealings in the oil industry continues. This case emphasizes and validates important legal rights, and we are proud to have been a part of it."

The defendants plan to appeal. Lawyers claimed the evidence contradicted Pickens' allegations and said the lawsuit was brought to appease the billionaire's ego for making poor business decisions during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. The defense contended during the trial that 70% of Pickens' net worth, around $2 billion, disappeared in late 2008 when oil and natural gas prices declined and the stock market crashed.

"We are gratified that the jury rejected the billion-dollar claims" by Pickens and Mesa, Thompson CFO Paul Rudnicki said. "The jury's award against J. Cleo Thompson of approximately $6 million is a fraction of what Mr. Pickens and his lawyers originally sought. This verdict also followed the court's dismissal of most of Mesa's other claims before trial. We believe the evidence does not support the verdict that J. Cleo Thompson breached the joint operating agreement. For example, J. Cleo Thompson did not even drill the wells at issue in the verdict. We plan to ask the judge to enter judgment in our favor on those points."

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