In 2002, David Wilson formed Celtic Exploration with a couple million dollars and a plan to get big. Really big.
What Wilson wanted to do was build a company with as many opportunities inside it as he could, so that it would eventually be attractive to a larger suitor. Then, once opportunity knocked, Wilson wanted to cash out. That’s exactly what he did when ExxonMobil came calling in 2012 and offered $3.1 billion for Celtic.
Inside Celtic, Wilson assembled a huge portfolio of resource play prospects well before it was even clear the plays would produce. He stayed away from bringing in joint venture partners in order to keep the company clean for an acquirer.
When it was acquired, Celtic was producing 22,000 boe/d, 75 percent of which was natural gas. The real attraction for Exxon was the whopping 545,000 acres of Montney shale and 104,000 acres of Duvernay that Celtic controlled. Celtic shareholders cashed out with 50 times their initial investment.
So how did Celtic manage to get such a massive land position in the Montney and Duvernay? The answer is pretty simple. The company took a chance and moved aggressively before larger companies had any interest. As with most entrepreneurs, Wilson and his team didn’t bask in Celtic’s success for long. Simultaneous with the sale to Exxon, a new company called Kelt Exploration was spun out with Wilson as CEO.
With roughly 22,000 boe/d, Kelt is of a similar size today as Celtic was when it was sold to Exxon. The company has four different core areas of operation in northeast British Columbia and northwest Alberta, with a focus on the Montney and Doig formations. Directors and management own 18 percent of Kelt’s outstanding shares and are now trying to steer the company through this trough in the commodity cycle.
CELTIC CEO DAVID WILSON