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Former Gryphon Execs Take Wing With Phoenix Exploration

Former executives of Gryphon Exploration Co. have formed Phoenix Exploration Co. for oil and gas exploration and property acquisition in the Gulf Coast and Gulf of Mexico.

"Our goal is to build a dynamic and agile company focused on value creation," said William Flores, CEO of Houston-based Phoenix.

Phoenix is drilling its first exploration well offshore in the West Cameron area and expects results in about 30 to 35 days, Flores told NGI. He said the company is focused on getting its exploration infrastructure in place. On the acquisition side, Flores said Phoenix has a number of deals in the pipeline.

Earlier last week Apache Corp. said it was paying $1.3 billion for the remaining Outer Continental Shelf properties properties of BP, marking the super-major's exit from the the Gulf of Mexico Shelf (see related story). Flores said this is the third time he has seen companies rotating out of the Shelf, and each time opportunistic players have come in to target the natural gas resource there. "We're very comfortable operating in the Gulf," Flores said.

Phoenix principals most recently held senior positions at Gryphon, which was formed in late 2000. Gryphon was acquired in August 2005 by Woodside Energy for about $310 million (see NGI, Sept. 5, 2005). Gryphon was capitalized by equity contributions from its management team and Warburg Pincus, as well as the contribution of certain assets from Cheniere Energy.

In addition to Flores, the Phoenix executive lineup will include: Stephen Heitzman, COO; John Parker, senior vice president, exploration; Timothy Duncan, senior vice president, business development; and Keith Westmoreland, senior vice president, operations.

Phoenix received $250 million in initial funding from Carlyle/Riverstone Global Energy and Power Funds. The investment came from Carlyle/Riverstone Global Energy and Power III LP, a $3.8 billion fund.

Late last year Carlyle/Riverstone, along with Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, provided $500 million in financing to a team for former Unocal Corp and BP plc executives to launch Cobalt International Energy LP to focus on the deepwater Gulf of Mexico (see NGI, Dec. 5, 2005).

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