Paul Van Wagenen graduated from Brigham Young University High School in 1963. He enrolled at BYU where he earned his BA in Political Science in 1970. He earned his JD degree from the University of Washington in 1973. He married Jeanine.
He then worked for Exxon in a variety of capacities in its Anchorage, Houston, Midland, New Orleans and New York offices.
Exxon made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, launching him on a career in the energy industry that led to his eventual position as chairman, president and CEO of the Pogo Producing Co. Founded in 1970 and headquartered in Houston, Texas, Pogo engaged in the exploration, development and production of oil and natural gas in the U.S. and around the world. Revenues topped $1.2 billion in 2005.
Most people in his position bring engineering or geoscience degrees to the table, says Van Wagenen, but it’s not unheard of for someone such as himself -- an attorney with an undergraduate degree in political science -- to run an oil and gas company.
As a lawyer with Exxon and later as Pogo’s general counsel, Van Wagenen soaked up a thorough knowledge of the industry. If oil didn’t flow through his veins when he started, it soon did.
“I enjoy the hunt for oil and natural gas,” says Van Wagenen. “When things are challenging, it’s fun, and when things are going well, it’s more fun yet.”
When not in his office, Van Wagenen was often looking over the shoulder of one of the company’s geophysicists, peering at computerized seismic images and “deciding where oil and gas might be hiding in those squiggly lines,” he says. “I’m a novice at it, but I enjoy rubbing elbows with people who are really good at it.”
When Van Wagenen took the helm at Pogo in October 1990, he was given a green light to chart a new course. Founded in 1970, Pogo was formed with the express purpose of acquiring licenses to drill for oil in newly opened fields in the Gulf of Mexico.
Two decades later under Van Wagenen, Pogo became an international player, acquiring licenses to operate off the coast of Thailand, where it ultimately drilled 500 wells, erected 22 platforms and extracted a trillion cubic feet of oil and natural gas.
As smart as that move was, Van Wagenen didn’t balk when the market dictated dealing away the company’s Thailand licenses. “You can’t name your cattle,” he says. “You have to be willing to sell your assets if the price is right.”
After using the $820 million it pocketed from selling its Thai assets to purchase Northrock Resources Ltd. of Canada, Pogo was looking to repeat its overseas success with newly acquired licenses to drill off the coasts of New Zealand and Vietnam.
Pogo's market capitalization was approximately $2.7 billion on December 31, 2005. Pogo's common stock was listed on The New York Stock Exchange, Inc. under the symbol "PPP".
Paul Van Wagenen was a director of the company beginning in 1988, and in 1990 was appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pogo Producing Co. Van Wagenen succeeded William C. Liedtke Jr., Pogo founder, who later died on March 1, 1991.
On November 6, 2007, Pogo Producing was acquired by Plains Exploration & Production Company (NYSE: PXP), and Paul G. Van Wagenen retired as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Pogo Producing Company.
Stockholders of both companies approved the transaction at their respective stockholder meetings on November 6th, and the acquisition has closed. Each Pogo stockholder received cash, shares of PXP common stock, or a combination of both. Several Pogo board executives, Mr. Thomas A. Fry, III and Dr. Charles G. Groat, joined the PXP Board. Mr. James C. Flores continued as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. PXP is headquartered in Houston, Texas.
Inspired by how a much-needed scholarship helped make his dream of attending law school a reality, University of Washington School of Law alumnus Paul G. Van Wagenen '73 made a gift in 2009 establishing The Paul G. Van Wagenen Endowed Scholarship at the UW School of Law.
"One of the oldest existing endowed scholarships at the law school is named for William Wallace Wilshire," said Van Wagenen, retired chairman and CEO of Pogo Producing Company in Houston, Texas. "I received one of those scholarships, and now I can assist a new generation to get a good legal education."
Immediately after graduating, Van Wagenen joined the law department of Exxon where his experience in oil and gas exploration included contract and transactional work, joint ventures, litigation, and federal administrative law and governmental relations. He joined Pogo Producing Company five years later to head the legal department and rose to the position of chairman and CEO.
Now retired, Van Wagenen credits much of his success to "the good legal education I received at the law school."
"For more than 60 years, the Wilshire scholarship helped so many students," he said in November 2009. "Now I can continue in that tradition."
Van Wagenen was a member of the All-American Wildcatters and was a member of the National Petroleum Council. He served as a member of the Executive Committee of the board of directors of the Greater Houston YMCA.
He also served on the Executive Committee of the board of directors of the National Ocean Industries Association. He was also a director of the Domestic Petroleum Council and a member of the Executive Committee of the U.S. Oil & Gas Association.
Van Wagenen was an active member of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association, the Center for Strategic and International Studies-Houston Roundtable, and the Greater Houston Partnership.