Staking Out The Middle Ground

I’ve been fortunate to talk to a large number of TPL holders over the past month.  Down to a person, the group is passionate about TPL and wants only the best (read: long term value maximization) for the Trust.  Old and new investors alike have a great deal of reverence for the history of the trust.  Another common refrain I hear from investors is that of TPL’s strong working culture and highly engaged team.  So, in light the commonalities and positive attributes above, I suggest all sides come together and steer this proxy battle away from getting any uglier.

Middle ground proposal:

  • In light of the wishes of a block that owns 25% of TPL, current Trustees Barry and Norris move to nominate and accept Eric Oliver as Trustee.
  • Trustees (working together) nominate a 5-7 person Governance Exploration Committee.  All members of the committee must be agreed upon by all three trustees.
  • Governance Exploration committee works for a period of six months to determine and recommend a long-term path for TPL oversight that 1) is respectful of the long term past values and goals of the Trust and 2) reflects 21stcentury realities of both corporate governance and the magnitude of the opportunity in West Texas.
  • New Governance form is brought to sub-unit holders for a go/no go vote
  • No vote = back to the drawing board
  • Yes vote = mandate to execute

That’s it.

It’s not perfect, but it represents a fair shake for all involved.  There are probably many other solutions like it.  The important part is that all sides come together and a solution is adopted.

The stakes are extremely high.  Mistakes can cost billions. Let’s set TPL up for high quality strategic direction and decision making via improved governance NOW.

Resistance to come to a common-sense middle ground should be looked upon by investors with contempt.  Personal ego, pride, and control should come AFTER doing the right thing for investors.

The horse is out of the barn, the cat is out of the bag, and we can never go home again.  There will never be another day in the future where governance at TPL isn’t an issue.  It must be resolved.

Wisdom From the Comment Section

GG in response to the last post writes:

Per the most recent 10-K, one thing that HAS changed is that the trustees just seemed to have increased their paychecks from $2,000 per year to $104,000 per year. Egregious? No. But you should never have a scenario where the trustees are elected FOR LIFE and also in a position to vote their own salary increases….

Likewise, if the Trust is going to be doling out multi-millions in bonuses to executives, then there needs to be shareholder oversight into the people who make those decisions. Glover and Packer each took home a $1.8 million bonus. Totally ok from the perspective of increased income, but it’s problematic that shareholders do not have any say outside of the very-rare trustee votes (literally only when a trustee resigns or dies).

Much more important than who is being nominated to be a trustee, is the line from the sec filing “Such discussions may include (1) the conversion of TPL into a Delaware corporation subject to modern governance principles, as permitted by TPL’s declaration of trust”

Modern governance, and a real elected board that answers to shareholders would clearly be a step up from the current situation.

Three trustees with lifetime jobs does sound a bit narrow for modern times.