Want to Hit It Big in Oil? Get Fired by This Troubled Company

(Bloomberg) -- Want to make it big in the oil industry? Try getting fired by SandRidge Energy Inc.

James D. Bennett, the CEO dismissed last week, left the company with a severance package worth at least $14 million, according to the explorer’s proxy filing in April and data on stock awards compiled by Bloomberg.

That follows a $90 million severance given to Bennett’s predecessor, founder Tom Ward, who was pushed out amid investor unrest in 2013. In between, the oil and gas explorer entered bankruptcy, wiping out the value of its shares. The stock has lost 27 percent since emerging from bankruptcy in October 2016.

Want to Hit It Big in Oil? Get Fired by This Troubled Company

Bennett’s eligible for the payout because his departure was deemed without cause and followed a corporate “change of control," a nod to SandRidge emerging from bankruptcy protection, according to a Feb. 9 company filing. The business, under fire from Carl Icahn and other top investors, announced on Feb. 8 that Bennett was leaving.

Bennett also received $22.8 million in salary, bonuses and vested shares from his hiring in June 2013 through 2016, the most recent figures available, according to Bloomberg data. He’d become a lightning rod for criticism in recent weeks from Icahn. The billionaire investor blasted the company’s management and helped scuttle a plan to acquire Bonanza Creek Energy Inc. earlier this year.

Icahn was the company’s biggest shareholder as of the end of last year, increasing his stake to 14 percent of the company, the activist reported in a regulatory filing Wednesday.

SandRidge didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment. In a statement last week, board Chairman John Genova thanked Bennett for his efforts.

“James Bennett guided the company through a challenging period of financial distress," Genova said. “However, as the company moves forward in a new strategic direction, the board has determined that the time has come to transition to new leadership."

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