Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Memon's Abrupt Departure Meets Good Reviews From ERHC Shareholders

The unexpected news that ERHC Energy CEO Ali Memon - former president of Marathon Oil operations in Equatorial Guinea - has left ERHC Energy on January 20 appeared in an 8-K report filed today with the Securities Exchange Commission and met with a largely positive response from shareholders.

While there are many possibilities raised as to why Memon has departed, one that was not raised is his role as Marathon's president in Equatorial Guinea, where his company along with ExxonMobil, Devon Energy, Noble Energy and others has been the object of a two-year investigation of bribery and corruption that violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act It's our feeling that this probe is going to suddenly turn around and bite someone in the butt very soon.

The investigation, apparently being slow-rolled by oil-state Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, has produced little but publicity since it began.

Memon's replacement is an American-educated lawyer from Germany whose credentials are still being examined by shareholders who want to learn more about him.

Walter Brandhuber is said to have 23 years of experience in the oil and gas industry nd won his LL.D. from my alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, in 1982. He was an executive at CRA International, also based in London and dsscribed as "an international consulting firm based in London/Amsterdam and specialising in market entry, oil-and-gas acquisition strategies and business development."

That background has excited speculation on both the I-Hub and Raging Bull boards that Brandhuber may have been brought in to engineer an Addax Petroleum buyout of the company from current CEO Sir Emeka Offor.

While there is no evidence that is the case, the logic is flawless, as Mr. Offor has had difficulty of late on several fronts, including a $1 million judgment against him and the failure of his African Express Bank to join a viable consortium under the Nigerian Central Bank's recent consolidation initiative, as well as resistance from the Sao Tome and Principe government and the departure of Devon Energy and Noble Energy from two of the five substantial equity interests awarded to him in the Nigeria and Sao Tome Principe Joint Development Zone.

Below are the 8-K filed earlier today, a press release put out by the company on Business wire, a brief description of CRA International's business, and three well-written and thoughtful comments from posters on the I-Hub ERHC Energy board, including one prescient post that is now three months old (from Mumfy), calling for Memon's ouster:

Here is the SEC filing today:

New 8-K out, Memon gone, new CEO

Item 1.02 Termination of a Material Definitive Agreement.

On January 20, 2006, by mutual agreement with the board, Ali Memon resigned as director and chief executive officer of ERHC Energy Inc. ("Company"), thereby terminating his employment agreement.

Item 5.02 Departure of Directors or Principal Officers; Election of Directors; Appointment of Principal Officers.

Effective January 20, 2006, by mutual agreement with the board, Ali Memon resigned as director and chief executive officer of the Company to spend more time with his family and to pursue other interests. On January 21, 2006, the board of directors of the Company appointed Walter Brandhuber as a director and chief executive officer of the Company.

Mr. Brandhuber, 51, was a senior consultant at CRA International Limited, in London, from 2003 until his appointment. From 1999 to 2003, he was a managing director and member of the board of Odin Petroleum NV based in London and Amsterdam. He was also on the board of Calverton Limited from 1999 to 2000. Between 1989 and 1998, Mr Brandhuber worked in Union Texas Petroleum, his last
position being vice-president.

There is no arrangement or understanding between Mr. Brandhuber and any other person pursuant to which Mr. Brandhuber was selected as a director. Mr. Brandhuber has no family relationship with any officer or director of the Company. Further, Mr. Brandhuber has not been involved with a related transaction or relationship as defined by Item 404(a) of Regulation S-K between the Company and him. As of the date of the filing of this report, it has not been determined which committee(s), if any, he will serve.

Here is the official ERHC Energy press release from Business Wire announcing the change of leadership:
ERHC Announces Appointment of Mr Walter Brandhuber as President, CEO and Director


January 25, 2006

HOUSTON, Jan 25, 2006 (BUSINESS WIRE) --

On 20th January 2006, by mutual agreement between the board of Directors of ERHC Energy Inc ("ERHC," "the Company") (OTCBB:ERHE) and Mr Ali Memon, Mr Memon resigned as President, CEO and Director of the Company.

On 21st January, 2006 the board of Directors of the Company appointed Mr Walter Brandhuber as President, CEO and Director of the Company.

Mr Brandhuber brings over 23 years of international oil and gas experience. Mr Brandhuber started his oil industry career in 1982 as an acquisition and divestiture executive in Kaiser Francis, a U.S. based oil and gas group. He joined Tenneco Oil in 1984 and worked as international counsel until 1989 when he joined Union Texas Petroleum Inc. At Union Texas, Mr Brandhuber held various key roles in business development and international negotiations. He successfully initiated, led negotiations for, and managed many key projects and alliances in Africa, Europe and Asia. In 1996, he became Vice President and worked in the management team that was responsible for identifying and developing business opportunities in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the CIS.

Mr Brandhuber left Union Texas in 1998 and from 1999 to 2003 he was Managing Director of Odin Petroleum NV based in London/Amsterdam. From 1999 to 2000, he was also on the board of Calverton International Limited based in Kazakhstan and Brussels. In 2003, Mr Brandhuber joined CRA International, an international consulting firm based in London/Amsterdam and specialising in market entry, oil-and-gas acquisition strategies and business development. Mr Brandhuber was a Senior Consultant with CRA International until his appointment as President, CEO and Director of ERHC.

Mr Brandhuber holds an MBA (Hons) from the University of Notre Dame. He also has a BA (cum laude) from the Loyola University of Chicago and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Oklahoma. Mr Brandhuber is a member of the Bar Associations in Texas and Oklahoma. He is a former director of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators. He was an Instructor for Finance at the University of Oklahoma in 1980-81.

Mr Brandhuber is fluent in English and German.

SOURCE: ERHC Energy, Inc.

ERHC Energy, Inc., Houston Jane Barker, 713-626-4700

Here is a blurb from the CRA International Website describing its business:

CRA International UK

CRA Limited provides economic, financial and business consulting services principally to clients located in the UK, continental Europe and the Middle East. The London-based staff focuses on Competition and Litigation Support, Financial Services and business consulting in the Chemicals & Petroleum industries. We work closely with other CRA offices and practices to offer global expertise and services to our clients and to cover a broad range of industries and regions.

In the Competition and Litigation Support area, we provide economic and financial advice to clients in cases before competition authorities throughout the EU and service the increasingly trans-Atlantic market in antitrust and merger economics. In the Financial Services sector, we undertake regulatory economics and strategy assignments for clients including banks, insurers and regulatory agencies and provide finance expertise to clients in a range of sectors. In the Chemicals & Petroleum sector, we combine in-depth industry knowledge with strategic and organisational consulting skills to help oil, gas and chemical companies develop new business strategies, improve performance, identify and execute successful acquisitions and deliver profitable growth.

And here is that prescient post we mentioned earlier:

Posted by: mumfy
In reply to: markgovols who wrote msg# 19321
Date:1/25/2006 4:31:44 PM
Post #of 19368

This may not be a popular post, but I (and others whom I've talked to) are looking forward to the day that Memon is removed from office. He's an incompetant who sits back and expects the market to see all the value in the world, when in fact we are not on anyone's radar screen. All these conspiracy theories about MM manipulation, naked shorting, major shareholders paying off this and that person to keep the price down so they can accumulate are taking attention away from the truth. If the man in charge were doing his JOB, and getting out there on the street to make the major players aware of who we are, what we have, and our potential, then we'd be over $1.00. As it stands, there is no volume and no coverage because nobody (repeat nobody) has a clue about who we are except for our partners. We are not Pioneer or Noble and we can't pretend that we are. Things don't happen for a tiny minnow on their own, you have to make them happen. And Memon has shown this year that he in incapable of doing that.

I sit and wait and hold, but only because I refuse to take a loss on this. But mark my words, if things don't pick up soon, there are those behind the scenes who will remove Memon and get someone in that office who can run a small company like it needs to be run.

One of the I-Hub board's best posters, oilman57, weighed in on the changes with this positive take:

Posted by: oilman57
In reply to: ILUVERHE who wrote msg# 19363
Date:1/25/2006 6:10:25 PM
Post #of 19368
This hiring can be looked at many different ways imo. Some wanted Ali Memon out and have been saying so for months because they didn't feel we had progressed in terms of share price, PSC signings, difficulties with partners, difficulties with Sao Tome, difficulties with promoting the company to the outside world. So those posters are probably ecstatic over the move because they want a change in direction.

Others look at the new CEO's background and feel his background with acquisitions etc might signal we are ripe to be a buyout or buy-in candidate so his background would be beneficial to integrating in with another company or completing the buyout. Or they look at him as being able to better guide through the PSC process going foward.

And others will look at his hiring as a potential negative. Thinking that maybe this whole process is heading toward litigation so he would be the best person to navigate us through potential land mines in the event Sao Tome decides to play hardball or Nigeria decides to cancel the treaty.

My view is, I'm neutral on the whole thing.

And this is another take on the matter from Longtimer, a poster with whom we are not familiar:

Posted by: ERHClongtimer
In reply to: None
Date:1/25/2006 7:44:25 PM
Post #of 19369
Re: Change of CEOs

Perhaps Memon's departure is just a case of passing the baton for the next phase of ERHE's development, and maybe it signifies a shift in the direction that the company is heading.

Memon's Letter to Shareholders was focused on ERHE becoming an E&P company, and Memon's background fit well with the goal of developing an E&P business.

However, reading Brandhuber's biography in today's announcement makes me wonder if the focus has shifted to positioning ERHE as a buyout candidate (likely not in the very near future, but as the value of ERHE's assets are substantiated). In any case, Brandhuber's expertise does seem to strengthen the company's legal footing and resources, something that certainly might not be bad to have at this point in time.

Given the long timeline of the petroleum business, this (an eventual buyout) may be the most expedient path for shareholders to cash in on ERHE's value. I would not be surprised to see communication from Brandhuber about "increasing shareholder value," to this end.

At any rate, it is very encouraging to see ERHE has once again been able to persuade well-heeled expertise to join its ranks. That tells me that we are still on the right track.
- Longtimer

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