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The Oil Company Where All Employees Still Get Six-Figure Bonuses

The Oil Company Where All Employees Still Get Six-Figure Bonuses

Every so often this or that magazine publishes an article rating the best communities for raising a family or a city’s best restaurants. There are even stories about the best employers to work for, though the employees of the Hilcorp Energy Co. might say there’s no longer any need to play that rating game.

The reason? For the second time in recent years the privately owned Houston-based energy company is giving huge year-end bonuses to all its nearly 1,400 employees. In 2011, owner Jeffrey Hildebrand, allowed each employee to choose between a gift of $50,000 to help pay for a new car, or $35,000 in cash.

The reason was to reward them for their roles in helping Hilcorp reach its goal of doubling its oilfield production rate, net oil and gas reserves and equity value over the previous five years. Related: How Far Will Oil Sink Before Christmas?

This year Hildebrand is doubling that bonus, giving each employee $100,000 for helping the company again double its energy output since 2010 to more than 150,000 barrels per day. There’s only one very, very small hitch: The full gift will be given to all employees who have worked for Hilcorp for the full five-year period, and will be prorated down if the term is smaller.

And “each employee” means just that. The bonus program doesn’t include just senior engineers and department heads. Beneficiaries include even the lowest-ranked employees, for whom the bonus may be twice as great as their annual pay.

Hildebrand is known for avoiding the media, and refused requests from several news organizations for an interview about the bonus program. Even a spokesman didn’t return a call for indirect comment from the U.S. business magazine Forbes. Related: The Hidden Danger Of OPEC’s Market Share Strategy

But one Hilcorp employee, Amanda Thompson, who says she’s worked as a receptionist at Hilcorp’s Houston headquarters for the past 10 years, did have a moment for the media. “It’s just a true gift, and I think myself, along with everyone, is not going to give less than 100 percent each day,” she told Fox 4 News in Houston.

This outpouring of holiday generosity comes at a time when most energy companies are forced to scrimp like Scrooge as they cope with 18 months of feeble revenues due to low oil prices. But Hilcorp evidently isn’t your ordinary energy company.

Hildebrand, a former petroleum engineer at Exxon, founded Hilcorp in 1989 and has focused on buying up oilfields that its previous owners felt were depleted. He then used advanced techniques to keep these fields profitable, as he’s done in several regions of Alaska. Related: This Oil And Gas Nation Is Doing Something It's Never Done Before

One major coup came in 2011, when Hilcorp invested $100 million in an Eagle Ford shale oilfield in southern Texas and got a return of $1.8 billion when he sold it to Marathon Oil Corp. More recently, in September 2014, he worked with the electrical utility NRG Energy Inc. to use carbon dioxide exhaust from a power plant and inject it into aging oil fields to extend their productive lives.

And speaking of magazine articles about the best places to work, another U.S. business magazine, Fortune, ranked Hilcorp No. 20 among the top 100 employers. It cited the company’s culture that can be best summed up this way: “We are all in this together.”

By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com

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