SandRidge names new COO, to probe CEO's land deals

(Reuters) - SandRidge Energy Inc SD.N said it named a new chief operating officer and hired a law firm to investigate land deals by Chief Executive Tom Ward and his family, a month after the oil and gas company ended a proxy battle with activist hedge fund TPG-Axon Capital.

An electronic display identifies the post that trades SandRidge Energy stock on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange January 11, 2013. Picture taken January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

SandRidge agreed then to either terminate Ward or give TPG-Axon-backed directors majority control of the company’s board.

The board, which now has four TPG-Axon nominated directors, has also taken steps to reduce costs by selling aircraft and cutting down on advertising and sponsorships.

SandRidge said on Monday it promoted David Lawler, previously an executive vice president of operations at the company, to chief operating officer, replacing Matthew Grubb, who resigned at the same time as SandRidge’s settlement with the hedge fund.

SandRidge has been under fire from activist shareholders since last year for strategic missteps and governance lapses, mostly surrounding the Ward family land deals in Kansas and Oklahoma.

The company said it hired law firm Mayer Brown LLP to review the allegations against the CEO. SandRidge is looking to complete the review by June 15, the company said.

SandRidge has until June 30 to decide whether to fire Ward.

The company said the reconstituted board is looking at cost cuts, including reductions in the company’s rig count and general and administrative expenses. It is also looking at possible asset sales.

The new board has also hired independent compensation consultant Frederick W. Cool & Co. to review SandRidge’s management pay.

Ward has been paid more than $116 million as CEO since 2007. Between 2007 and 2011, Ward made more than $7 million more than the two men who served as CEO of Chevron, a company more than 90 times the current size of SandRidge by market capitalization.

Reporting by Michael Erman in New York and Thyagaraju Adinarayan and Garima Goel in Bangalore; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Kenneth Barry