Northern Oil and Gas Ousts COO Shortly After Prez. Resigns

A company spokesman reportedly said that Northern Oil and Gas let go of James Sankovitz because it no longer needs a chief operating officer.

About two weeks after its co-founder and president, Ryan Gilbertson, left abruptly, Northern Oil and Gas, Inc., has let go of its chief operating officer, James Sankovitz.
In a Tuesday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Wayzata-based Northern Oil said that it has terminated Sankovitz’s employment and does not plan to fill the position at this time.
A Thursday morning phone call to the company was not immediately returned, but Northern Oil spokesman Erik Nerhus told the Pioneer Press that the company let Sankovitz go because it no longer needs a chief operating officer.
Sankovitz will receive severance benefits, which include a lump-sum payment of $325,000—an amount that’s equal to his annual base salary for 2012—plus reimbursement for unpaid expenses and the right to exercise his company stock, according to documents filed with the SEC.
Sankovitz became Northern Oil’s chief operating officer in March 2010 after serving as the company’s general counsel for two years. Prior to joining Northern Oil, he was a partner at Minneapolis-based law firm Adams, Monahan & Sankovitz, LLP.
Earlier this month, Northern Oil announced that Gilbertson, who co-founded the company in 2006, left in order to devote more time to other interests, including other business and charitable activities. At the same time, he entered into a consulting agreement with Northern Oil under which he will serve as an adviser to the company’s board of directors through October 2014.
The company said at the time that it had no plans to fill the president position, and Gilbertson’s responsibilities would be divided among the company’s current executives.
Northern Oil is an oil and natural gas exploration and production company that owns shares in oil wells, primarily those in the oil-rich area surrounding the Bakken and Three Forks rock formations, both of which run under the western part of North Dakota and into Montana.
While the size of its executive staff is shrinking, the company itself has been growing rapidly in recent years, capitalizing on the recent oil-production boom in the area surrounding the Bakken formation and buying several properties in the area last year. By the end of 2011, the company’s reserves were up 198 percent from where they were at the end of 2010.
Northern Oil is among Minnesota’s 80-largest public companies based on revenue, which totaled $149.3 million in 2011, representing a 235 percent year-over-year increase. Net income last year totaled $40.6 billion, up 487 percent from 2010.
The company ranked seventh on Fortune magazine’s recent list of the 100 “fastest-growing companies” in the world based on its three-year average revenue and profit growth rates of 237 percent and 122 percent, respectively.
Twin Cities Business columnist Tony Carideo last year examined Northern Oil’s financial performance and growth, as well as some of its practices and ethics. He argued that the company appears to be operating at the edge of the ethical envelope, and that a “years-long pattern of management decision making and behavior—both professional and personal—calls into question Northern’s ability to act fully in the best interests of its shareholders.” Read the full column here.