Chris Bennett, an energy and infrastructure dealmaker at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in Houston, is leaving for Weil, Gotshal & Manges.
It’s part of Weil’s buildout of its energy practice in Texas after some departures, most notably Rodney Moore and Sam Peca, who recently joined Winston & Strawn as partners in the firm’s Dallas office.
Bennett is the second prominent addition to Weil’s energy group in Houston in the past month, following the arrival of partner Omar Samji in April.
“It is a pleasure to welcome Chris as the latest addition to our outstanding energy team,” Weil executive partner Barry Wolf said in an announcement. “As our clients increasingly focus on opportunities in the energy and infrastructure sectors, we’re committed to expanding our capabilities to better meet their growing needs.”
Michael Aiello, chairman of Weil’s global corporate department, added that Bennett’s experience advising on M&A transactions across the upstream and midstream oil and gas markets and related infrastructure projects will be an “excellent complement” to its energy practice. “Chris also embodies the spirit of teamwork and camaraderie that is a hallmark of the Weil culture,” he said.
Alfredo Pérez, managing partner of Weil’s Houston office, said Bennett is an important part of Weil’s growing energy practice. “His joining, which follows the addition of Omar Samji last month, strengthens our platform in energy and infrastructure and enhances our ESG, energy transition, sustainability and environmental offerings as well.”
In response to emailed questions, Bennett said joining Weil offers him the opportunity to continue evolving his practice while working with Weil’s world-class corporate team and distinguished clients both in Texas and globally. “The move just made sense for my clients and me at this stage of my career and in the current industry environment,” he said.
Bennett specifically noted Weil’s private equity practice, its experience across an array of industries and restructuring practice as draws.
“Ultimately, companies have to be forward-thinking while also capitalizing on lessons learned from past experience in order to succeed in the new, evolving energy frontier.”
— Chris Bennett
When asked if he plans to bring any partners or associates with him, he said Weil is focused on building the energy practice in Houston and it’s too early to say where any lateral additions might come from.
As for what he is witnessing deals-wise, Bennett is seeing less capital and fewer players involved in traditional energy transactions than in years past despite prices for commodities remaining relatively stable, particularly for oil.
“M&A activity is relatively strong and many companies in the energy space are operating with a relatively healthy amount of cash flow,” he said. “For the near future, I expect consolidation activity to continue, although making predictions much beyond the near future remains fraught.”
Bennett noted that there is significant M&A activity taking place in the transition deal and infrastructure deal areas, and within the private equity space, he’s seeing that both on the buyout and development side.
“Opportunities for creativity are increasingly valued by major energy players when it comes to carbon emission reduction, of course,” he said. “Ultimately, companies have to be forward-thinking while also capitalizing on lessons learned from past experience in order to succeed in the new, evolving energy frontier.”
Among his recent deals, this past January Bennett was the lead partner on IMTT’s sale of the company’s bulk liquids storage terminal located in Gretna, Louisiana, to BWC Terminals for undisclosed terms. With Shamus Crosby, he also assisted Bighorn Permian Resources (formerly known as Sable Permian Resources) on the sale of Midland Basin assets to Earthstone Energy Inc. last year for $860 million.
While he was at Latham & Watkins (he made partner in 2019), Bennett co-led the team that advised EQT Corp., the country’s largest gas producer, on its $2.9 billion acquisition assets in the Marcellus Shale in 2021 from Houston-based Alta Resources. In addition, he advised Angelo Gordon in out-of-court restructuring of Abraxas Petroleum, which also included the sale of assets to Lime Rock Resources.
The Tulane law grad also played a leading role in Murphy Oil’s $270 million sale of its 50 percent interest in the King’s Quay floating production system in the Gulf of Mexico to a joint venture between affiliates of Arclight Capital Partners and Ridgewood Energy.
In 2020, Bennett was one of the lead Latham partners representing Solaris Water Midstream on expanding a joint venture agreement with Concho Resources (later bought by ConocoPhillips) for fracking operations in New Mexico. Bennett was also on the Latham roster advising Houston-based Sable Permian Resources in its Chapter 11 restructuring and worked on deals for Epic Midstream, Hess and Castleton Commodities.