Saturday, June 30, 2012

Natural Gas, A Disappearance at Sea and a $2 Billion Fortune

From Forbes, June 28:
The Tragedy Of Guma Aguiar And A $2 Billion Texas Gas Fortune
In 2003, a 26-year-old man arrived in Houston to look for hidden oil and gas reserves. Guma Aguiar had next to no experience in exploration, but he had been dispatched by his uncle, Thomas Kaplan, an Oxford-trained historian turned natural resources investor. Kaplan had a hunch that oil and gas prices would soon skyrocket, and that technological breakthroughs would provide additional opportunities for  production, even in a well-explored area like Texas.
In Houston, Aguiar met with John Amoruso, a top-notch geologist, who explained to Aguiar his theory on drilling in the deep Bossier sands of East Texas. Amoruso was convinced large quantities of natural gas could be found there because the sand was thick, the very type of high-pressure formation, Amoruso reasoned, that was conducive to the development of natural gas deposits.

Aguiar told Kaplan about the meeting and arranged for his uncle and Amoruso to meet in Tampa, where Kaplan came to believe that Amoruso was on to something. For the next year or so, Kaplan financially backed  an effort that involved Aguiar working with Amoruso to identify and purchase gas leaseholds rich in deep Bossier sand, accumulating 30,000 contiguous acres in what would later be known as the Amoruso field. Kaplan set up Leor Energy and installed Aguiar as its CEO, forming a joint venture with Encana, Canada’s biggest natural gas company, and Goldman Sachs. When Encana finally drilled the field it found 2.4 trillion cubic feet of gas and the Canadian company in 2007 bought up all of Leor’s assets in the field for $2.55 billion.

Last week, at the age of 35, Aguiar got in his 31-foot boat and ventured out into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He has not been seen since and the search for him has been called off. His boat was found on a Ft. Lauderdale beach last Wednesday with its lights on and its twin outboard engines running. Aguiar’s cell phone and wallet were found on the boat.

The Amoruso gas find was a great American discovery, but it produced nothing but tragedy for Aguiar. It tore up his family, resulting in a battle that has included nasty lawsuits over $2 billion of proceeds from the natural gas sale, causing a rift between Aguiar and Kaplan. It also destroyed Kaplan’s relationship with his sister, Ellen Aguiar, who is Guma Aguiar’s mother. Ellen also became involved in the family fight, launching a lawsuit against her billionaire brother that remains ongoing. Kaplan, who is president of  Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y and is a big philanthropist for Jewish causes as well as conservation efforts for endangered cats, has long denied any wrongdoing and has so far overwhelmingly won the legal battles. Aguiar, meanwhile, descended into mental derangement amid the fights for the gas fortune. His wife, Jamie Black Aguiar, even sued him weeks before his disappearance to try to get access to some of the natural gas prize. Now, Jamie and Ellen are fighting over it....MUCH MORE
Yesterday the New York Daily News picked up the story with an almost 19th Century style:

Aguiar wife and mother clash in court: Compromise over missing millionaire Guma’s $100 million estate could give Northern Trust conservatorship 

Missing tycoon's assets prompt family fight, tears in courtroom drama. The wife, Jaime, called the mother's petitions 'premature.' Guma's mother said Jaime asked for a divorce in the hours just before her son went missing.
The mother of vanished Florida tycoon, Guma Aquiar, has won a legal battle against his wife over control of the missing man’s $100 million estate.

Ellen Aguiar filed a petition seeking control of 35-year-old Guma Aguiar’s assets last week, before the U.S. Coast Guard even called off the search for her son. He was last seen taking his fishing boat out on June 19. It washed ashore on a Fort Lauderdale Beach hours later, empty and with no sign of Guma.

In her petition, filed on June 21 in Broward County Court, Aguiar, 59, originally sought to be the sole conservator. She later revised the documents, requesting Northern Trust assume control, the Sun Sentinel reports.
On Thursday in the same court, 10 lawyers tentatively agreed that Northern Trust should oversee most of Aguiar’s estate. The judge plans to consider the proposal by Tuesday, when the bank is expected to accept control.

Jaime Aguiar, Guma’s wife, had also filed a petition seeking conservatorship, on June 22, according to the newspaper.

 Guma Aguiar was last seen taking his fishing boat out on June 19.

In the document, she called her mother-in-law’s filing the day before “wholly premature,” as her husband had been missing for less than 48 hours. She says that the filing was the only way to “protect the interest of herself and her children from what is sadly the latest in a long line of Ellen Aguiar’s pervasive, persistent, and ill-advised attempts to disrupt the home life of Jamie, Guma, and their children and seize control of their finances.” 

Jamie also alleges Aguiar had interfered with the police investigation of her missing son, by possibly deleting “critical voice and/or text messages” from Guma’s phone, the petition states.
When her husband’s possible death was discussed on Thursday, Jaime reportedly fled the courtroom in tears....MORE