By S.C. GWYNNE and GARY JACOBSON, The Dallas Morning News
In 1985, a young Harvard Business School student from Abilene named Jeff Sandefer had an idea to make money from the catastrophic bust in the oil and gas business. The son of a wildcatter, he knew how bad things were in the Oil Patch. He believed he knew how to make money from it.
He wrote a special project about the future of the independent oil operator. It evolved into a business plan that called for acquiring cheap offshore drilling leases and making use of the stockpiles of equally cheap equipment to drill his own wells in the Gulf of Mexico. He launched Sandefer Offshore in 1986 with funding from General Atlantic, an oil company where he had worked as an intern.
“It was a brilliant plan,” said Bruce Evans, a Harvard classmate of Sandefer’s. “It still is.”
Just how brilliant would become apparent when, seven years later, Forbes reported that the company had made $500 million in profit in the previous four years and that Sandefer had pocketed a third of that. He was 33. A decade later, a complex Australian oil shale play earned him an additional $150 million.
But Sandefer was interested in more than just getting rich in the oil fields. His passion was higher education, which soon led to a crusade, funded by his personal fortune, against what he considers the failings of the American university system. Read more…