February 8, 2018 / 11:46 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-SandRidge Energy ousts CEO and CFO after push from Icahn

(Adds details of exit, stock price)

By Ernest Scheyder

HOUSTON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - SandRidge Energy Inc ousted its chief executive and finance chief on Thursday and said it would cut spending, a victory for activist investor Carl Icahn who has railed for months against the U.S. shale producer’s board and management.

The departures could pressure other U.S. shale producers facing investor unrest, including Hess Corp and Energen Corp. Wall Street has been prodding the industry to pare outlays after years of higher drilling produced scant shareholder returns.

James Bennett led SandRidge into and out of bankruptcy in 2016 as its CEO and a board member, and drew Icahn’s ire over his compensation and a $746 million bid to buy rival Bonanza Creek Energy Inc late last year. SandRidge terminated the offer in December.

Julian Bott, the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, company’s finance chief, will leave as soon as its annual report is filed with U.S. regulators, SandRidge’s board said in a statement.

“As the company moves forward in a new strategic direction, the board has determined that the time has come to transition to new leadership,” it said.

SandRidge will be led in the interim by board member Bill Griffin and will add Sylvia Barnes, owner of oil investment firm Tanda Resources LLC, as a director.

Neither Bennett nor Griffin were available for comment. Icahn was not immediately available for comment.

SandRidge, which operates in Oklahoma and Colorado, said it would cut its capital spending this year by at least 23 percent over last year, a nod to Icahn, the company’s largest shareholder, who had pushed for greater financial controls.

The exits come just days after smaller rival Midstates Petroleum Co offered to buy SandRidge in an all-stock deal that had been supported by some smaller shareholders, including Fir Tree Partners. SandRidge had said it would review the offer, but did not mention it on Thursday.

Fir Tree Partners was not immediately available for comment.

SandRidge said it would spend $180 million to $190 million this year, down from $247 million in 2017. The company only plans to run two rigs this year.

Shares of SandRidge were unchanged in after-hours trading after falling more than 3.5 percent to $16.10 in a broad market rout. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Tom Brown and Richard Chang)

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