The move reunites Byrd and Sullivan, who practiced together at Akin Gump for five-plus years. For the past year Byrd has operated his own law firm.
Rob Reedy, co-managing partner of Porter Hedges, said the two are an “ideal fit for our firm and reinforce our position as one of the leading energy law firms in the country.”
Byrd, who has served as lead counsel in more than 100 oil and gas M&A transactions, focuses his practice on oil and gas mergers, acquisitions and divestitures with a particular emphasis in the upstream sector. Sullivan, who worked in-house at Chevron as a land representative earlier in his career, represents energy clients in upstream and midstream acquisitions and divestitures, private equity investments and joint ventures.
In 2018, the two lawyers worked together on multiple deals for Diamondback Energy, including its $9.2 billion acquisition of Energen Corp. and a $1.2 billion purchase of Midland Basin assets from Ajax Resources.
Byrd and Sullivan also were on the deal team for Oklahoma City-based Gulfport Energy on its 2016 $1.85 billion purchase of 46,600 acres in Oklahoma’s SCOOP region from Vitruvian II Woodford, LLC.
The 30-plus-year veteran corporate attorney and his “protégé” expanded on their moves to Porter Hedges and what kinds of deals they are working on in the following Q&A.
The Texas Lawbook: Why did you make the move to Porter Hedges?
Mike Byrd: The firm has a long-standing reputation as one of the nation’s leading energy law firms, and I was attracted to a mid-size firm that offered a lower overhead and bureaucracy as compared to the global BigLaw firms I have worked for in the past. It has all the resources my clients need without a lot of the practice areas and foreign office locations that don’t have much synergy with a U.S. oil and gas practice. And the fact that I could reunite with one of my protégés was a big plus not only for me but for several clients that Shane and I teamed up to work with at Akin Gump.
Shane Sullivan: I was attracted to the size of the firm’s team, depth of its practice, and its broad experience representing clients across the full spectrum of the oil and gas industry, particularly in a domestic capacity. The full suite of services the firm can provide allows me to continue my current transactional practice while also allowing me to expand the number of services I can provide to clients due to the firm’s efficient rate structure. It was also a big plus to continue working with Mike and to be able to offer existing clients a deal team that they are already familiar with.
The Lawbook: Have you worked with or across from anyone at Porter Hedges before?
Byrd: Yes, and I always respected their skills, demeanor, and professionalism. In addition, I had thoroughly interviewed with Porter Hedges when I made prior lateral moves in 2006 and in 2014, so I had a number of good relationships here from those experiences.
Sullivan: I have worked with a few attorneys at Porter Hedges in the last few years and everyone has been very professional and collegial. I have also gotten to know many attorneys personally over the last couple of years which made the decision to move easier.
The Lawbook: What are one or two of the most interesting deals you have handled recently?
Byrd: I worked on an asset divestiture this summer that involved negotiating with multiple buyers, holders of rights of first refusal and consents to assign, and multiple law firms. We also had ongoing litigation that we had to convince the buyers to assume. It took 2 closings but ultimately my client sold the entire package of assets and retained no liability except for pre-effective time taxes. We also structured the closings as 1031 exchanges that enabled my client to use the sales proceeds for additional acquisitions and thereby minimize its exposure to capital gains taxes.
On the disputes front, I’ve been advising three clients for eight years on an interesting, multiparty title case. We have already been up to the Texas Supreme Court once, and it is quite possible that we could be headed back there again.
Sullivan: I have assisted clients on some interesting joint development agreements in the last couple of years. Many have involved some bespoke production hurdles and drilling deadlines. I have also helped clients on acreage swaps and wellbore only transactions. These always present interesting issues that need to be specifically addressed through the language of the transaction documents.
The Lawbook: What are the emerging trends or key developments in your practice that you are following closely?
Byrd: The trend toward consolidation seems to be continuing, given the importance E&P companies are placing on increasing shareholder returns and reducing debt.
Sullivan: I continue to see certain issues (particularly competing use issues) between hydrocarbon production and the development of renewable energy facilities, and I expect these issues will become more numerous as time goes on.
The Lawbook: What kinds of deals are you seeing? What kinds of levels of activity do you expect for energy deals for the rest of the year and looking ahead to next year?
Byrd: We are still seeing a lot of asset sales, particularly including divestitures of non-core assets and some deals that are limited to mineral and royalty interests.
Sullivan: As commodity prices continue to trend upward, I expect divestitures in which companies are looking to offload assets that do not factor into their long term plans to also continue.
The Lawbook: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Byrd: After a year of running a solo practice, I am thrilled to be working again with interesting attorneys and friends on a daily basis. Porter Hedges has a very collegial culture, and I have been particularly impressed by how often lawyers at the firm get together outside of the office, both with and without clients. In my experience, this does not happen as much at larger firms and it helps to create a culture that serves both the firm and its clients well.