A story of success, integrity and adventure.
Walter is the current and principal operating organization among a long and illustrious line of oil and gas enterprises created, led and owned by the Walter family. While each generation has its own unique story of success, every family business has been recognized for high technical and business competencies, hard work, good fortune and plain common sense.
Houston Royalty Company. The entrepreneurial story begins in the 1930’s when Rusty’s grandfather, Joe Walter, Sr., a landman, started putting lease plays together. He and business partner Irwin Smith began taking overrides in lieu of cash commissions, and together formed Houston Royalty Company. Joe’s son, Joe Walter, Jr., a graduate of the University of Texas with a BS in Petroleum Engineering and a Master’s in Geology, and after six years at Humble Oil, joined Houston Royalty in the late 50’s shortly after his father’s death. Joe started putting drilling deals together and developed a lifelong passion and true genius for exploration. However, a few years after Joe Jr’s arrival, Mr. Smith died, and the stockholders wanted to sell the company. Joe was able to assemble a group of investors to buy a controlling interest, and subsequently merged the company with Royalties Management Company of Tulsa in return for Houston Royalty stock. With the cash flow of the merged company, Joe was able to build a formidable reserve base by aggressively purchasing under-drilled and under-valued fields sold by the majors.
Houston Oil & Minerals. Joe took Houston Royalty public in 1966 under the name Houston Oil & Minerals Corporation. Fox Benton Jr., a young financial expert, joined HO&M in 1969, and the two immediately embarked on an aggressive acquisition program. After a brief stint owning the Good Hope refinery, HO&M acquired properties from Union Texas Petroleum and Occidental Petroleum, including four unproduced Miocene wells in 12 feet of water off Bolivar Point near Galveston, Texas. After developing the Miocene oil field, and drilling a costly dry hole to test the deeper Frio section, HO&M drilled a second Frio test that resulted in a major discovery. The subsequent 14 oil wells and gas wells in the field produced over 500 bcfe.
The Bolivar discovery was transformational for HO&M. After successfully exploiting the Frio throughout Galveston Bay and adjoining coastal waters, the company set its exploration ambitions internationally, riding a global wave of success across the North Sea, Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America and Australia.
Ever the deal maker and entrepreneur, Joe soon found himself managing an internationally sprawling empire with five separate divisions and 1,400 employees, including Houston Minerals Corporation, owner of gold, silver, lead and zinc operations and the fourth-largest mineral position in the United States, Seagull Energy Company, a natural gas marketing and pipeline subsidiary, among others. But Joe, who was suffering from heart disease, was growing tired of dealing with the administrative duties of running such a large company. On April 1, 1981 he underwent heart surgery. Nine days later, Joe concluded a merger with Tenneco and retired to his ranch in Brownwood, Texas, a retirement that lasted all of three weeks.
Walter Oil & Gas Corporation. Unable to stay away from the business he loved, Joe organized Walter Oil & Gas in 1981. With a small staff, the majority of which were too young and inexperienced to appreciate the risk of joining a startup E&P during single digit oil prices, Walter started assembling and drilling Mississippian Reef plays in North Texas and Gulf Coast prospects throughout Texas and Louisiana.
Within the following year, his son Rusty, who had recently completed a B.S. in Geology and an MBA from UT Austin, joined the company as a geologist. In 1983, Walter made the strategic decision to pursue low risk opportunities in the shallow federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Non-operated discoveries were made at Mustang Island 831 and Eugene Island 45/46 in partnership with Seagull Energy, a HO&M subsidiary comprised of many of Joe’s former colleagues. While these projects were successful, it became apparent that to manage its vision most effectively, Walter would need to become an offshore operator.
The immediate challenge was to secure funding necessary for an aggressive offshore exploration program while remaining privately held in order to avoid the public market burdens endured at HO&M. The high capital needs initially were solved through the formation of numerous partnerships and joint ventures throughout the 1980’s with industry, institutional and venture capital participants such as Rowan Drilling Companies, Western Company of North America, International Paper, St. Paul Insurance Company, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Zilkha Energy, among many others. In 1987, a strategically important financial relationship began with the creation of the first of what would be ten investment vehicles involving pension funds managed by Chase Investment Partners and its successor’s- UBS Asset Management and Energy Trust. The capital and project commitment secured through the relationship with Chase gave Walter a decisive competitive advantage.
In 1989, Rusty became President and Chief Executive Officer while Joe turned his focus to hunting for the next world class field overseas. Joe reconnected with several colleagues from HO&M, forming Walter International, and preceded to drill high potential wildcats throughout the world. Eventually, with Walter Oil & Gas as a partner, they developed the offshore Alba Field, with reserves in excess of 1 Billion barrels of oil equivalent, and representing the first commercial hydrocarbon field developed in the west African country of Equatorial Guiana. Walter International subsequently merged into CMS Nomeco who sold the Alba Field to Marathon in 2000.
Meanwhile at Walter, Rusty embarked on restructuring the exploration and engineering departments to capture opportunities newly available through improvements in 3D seismic data and emerging subsea development technology. Although the 1980s was a challenging decade, the company’s perseverance, expertise, and business sense proved profitable even in a depressed oil and gas price environment.
With commodity prices starting to improve in the early 90’s,Walter’s growth accelerated with major discoveries at South Marsh Island 36/37, High Island A 21/22, S. Pelto 6, West Delta 106/107, Eugene Island 390, Viosca Knoll 862 and Ship Shoal 243. The company’s engineering team creatively leveraged their talents to become a leading operator of subsea completed fields. Its first subsea completion was performed in 1989 at East Cameron Block 341, and the company has since executed more than 96 subsea projects.
Seeking additional capital reinvestment opportunities, and geographic diversification, Walter successfully returned to exploring onshore along the Texas and Louisiana coasts in the late 1990’s. In 2007 it became an early operator in applying new horizontal drilling and fracturing technology in Oklahoma’s Woodford Shale.
Ever exhibiting the entrepreneurial spirit, Walter created or funded numerous enterprises during this time, including Superior Natural Gas, an affiliated natural gas marketing company, Vision Resources, a crude oil marketer, Walter Power, an electricity generating company, WOGI and Walter UK, both international exploration companies and Walter Insurance Group.
Today, the company’s primary exploration and production focus remains in and along the Gulf of Mexico, both offshore and onshore, as well as emerging unconventional plays throughout the U.S.
Challenges abound in the industry, whether related to commodity pricing, competition, technology advancement, geologic trend maturation and new play recognition, regulatory and environmental affairs, or adverse weather. With over a 34 year track record, the company has clearly evidenced the necessary vision, resilience and measured risk-taking to meet those challenges.
Accordingly, Walter’s established reputation as a skilled oil finder and operator has long been respected. Similarly, Rusty’s reputation as a leading CEO in the industry, with a passion, talent and gift for the business equaling his famous father, is widely recognized and acclaimed.