My early business career gave me experience of market and financial analysis, marketing, corporate finance and corporate strategy and two of my employers kindly sent me on advanced management development programmes one in the USA at the Harvard Business School and the other in France at INSEAD/CEDEP – a good background for my subsequent career in the offshore oil and gas industry. That began in the mid-1960s when I identified the newly arrived North Sea oil and gas business as an opportunity area for my then employer, the Vickers Group, work which helped set in train the events leading to the foundation of the UK’s first significant subsea services company, Vickers Oceanics.
By the time this had come about, I was in the City, helping to set up and fund exploration consortia and E & P companies, fabricators and consulting companies while encountering oil field financings for the first time. Next came a three-year secondment to the UK Department of Energy’s Offshore Supplies Office (OSO) where I became Director General, responsible, among other things, for running the world’s first formal ‘local content’ policy. Under my watch, the UK content of expenditure on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf passed the target of 70% for the first time. This job was inevitably political and the politics were international as well as domestic. I was in the role when Mrs Thatcher came to power, but in our corner of the offshore industry things continued much as before.
Then it was back to the private sector, though not directly as I spent a couple of years as executive chairman of British Underwater Engineering Ltd where the state (through the National Enterprise Board) was the controlling shareholder. Here the politics were too hot to handle and I left several years before the (by then privatised) company collapsed.
Thereafter I devoted my energies to developing Smith Rea Energy Associates Ltd (SREA) into what arguably became in the 1980s and 1990s Europe’s premier techno-economic consultant for the offshore oil and gas industry. Our international clientele included oil and gas companies from the largest to the very small, contractors and service companies of all sizes, financial institutions (for whom we undertook due diligence) and government agencies from the UK, the USA, Ireland, the Netherlands,Norway and Australia as well as the European Union. We had a flourishing publications business,including both the ‘Offshore Business’ series, an annual review of the floating production market and one-offs such as those relating to multi-phase flow and subsea separation (in partnership with AEA Technology) and to the potential of the West of Shetlands.
The Present and Beyond
I am formally retired, but so far, retirement has produced a PhD, a book and a series of articles. I continue to write and would always consider a speaking engagement or even a tantalisingly interesting piece of advisory work.