Seymour Schulich, the Canadian billionaire who went “all in” on Pengrowth Energy Corp., has joined other investors in approving a takeover that last month sent shares of the Calgary-based oil and gas company plunging by 75 per cent.
The Canadian investor, who has a business school named after him at Toronto’s York University, told the Financial Post his stake was among the 87 per cent of shares that were voted in favour of the five-cent-per-share offer from Cona Resources, which will also assume Pengrowth’s $740-million debt as part of the deal.
“Yes, the old man accepted,” Schulich, who will turn 80 in January, said in an email following the vote tabulation late Wednesday at a meeting in Calgary. Just over 55 per cent of common shares were voted in person or by proxy.
In an email exchange with the Financial Post, Schulich — who once earned the nickname “the Sheriff” for his attention-grabbing costumed antics at mining company shareholder meetings — appeared to joke that he is now among the ten per cent-ers in the wealth department, having lost the one per cent status he held “B.P. — before Pengrowth.”
He did not disclose how many shares he owned in the oil and gas company, but his investment company Nevada Capital Corp. Ltd. issued a news release on May 15 saying he had increased his ownership in the energy company to 165 million shares. At that time, the stock was trading at 56 cents. The shares had slid to 20 cents apiece by the time Cona bid was announced last month, at which time Bloomberg data on stock holdings listed Nevada as Pengrowth’s largest shareholder with a 28.5 per cent stake.
Schulich had been buying Pengrowth stock since at least the fall of 2017, telling the Financial Post in an interview at that time that he was going “all in” on a bet that oil and gas prices would rise.
Last month, Pengrowth executives blamed the nickel-a-share sale price (which comes with a potential “contingent value payment”) on the significant decline in oil prices in 2014 that hit as the firm was embarking on the largest capital project in its history.
Pete Sametz, Pengrowth’s chief executive, told shareholders in November that the sale was the best option after efforts to arrange ongoing funding — a difficult task both for the company and participants in the Canadian oil and gas industry in general — were unsuccessful.
In the email exchange, Schulich said he is troubled by industry conditions and the federal government’s response to them.
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He joked that he had applied to hold a charity “tag day” next Monday to “help oil investors survive,” and suggested the attention lavished on Canada’s cannabis industry was not commensurate with its economic contribution.
Perhaps more seriously, he questioned how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is handling the energy file, and appeared critical of the emphasis on consultation over what Schulich would view as concrete action to stimulate “economic value.”
He went as far as to suggest that the emphasis should, at some point, shift to constitutional powers such as the Notwithstanding Clause that could be pressed into service to remove obstacles to the industry.
“Unelected judges should not be able to hold up infrastructure projects of high economic value approved by parliamentary commissions,” Schulich wrote.