Just How Badly Run Was Ewing Oil?

Angela Channing

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Ewing Oil was a multi-million dollar company and at one point JR even claimed it was worth over $1 billion yet is seemed to be run with the same level of professionalism as a family Five and Dime store.

For a company of that size, why didn't it have a board of directors? Where was the director of finance or a director in charge of explorations, research or strategy? Even Barnes Wentworth had a director of finance in the shape of Leo Wakefield.

The company should have had a better structure: Jock could have been the Chairman, JR the Chief Executive Office and Bobby the Chief Operating Officer. Instead, the company was totally without structure and JR and Bobby just did ad hoc deals on a whim.

It had the kind of structure that could work in the days of using a drunk's nose to sniff out oil but in the high powered business world of the 1980s it would have been a poor way to set up a company to run successfully.
 

CeeCee72

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Always wondered the same thing. I get that it was a "independent" oil company and that it was family owned and operated, but you'd think there would have been more structure and executives.

Hard to believe a billion dollar company would be run in such a way that one man (JR) had the authority to unilaterally make decisions that could put it in jeopardy over and over again.
 

Billy Wall

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JR was a horrible business man who eventually ran that company into non-existence. Bobby once told Pam: “The Ewings are going to be destroyed, but not by your brother, but mine.”

I know it made for good TV, but no way would they have allowed JR to remain president of Ewing Oil for all those years.
 

tommie

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I dunno
I agree but then JR wouldn’t have been able to get away with all that he did if he had to run it past board members lol :)

Exactly - if Ewing Oil had an actual board JR would've been out of there pretty soon with all his f*** ups. Look at Empire and how they'd cycle characters in-and-out of the CEO position. Hell, maybe it would've eventually led to Lucy having her turn in the CEO position.
 

Lastkidpicked

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Ewing Oil was a multi-million dollar company and at one point JR even claimed it was worth over $1 billion yet is seemed to be run with the same level of professionalism as a family Five and Dime store.
Always wondered the same thing. I get that it was a "independent" oil company and that it was family owned and operated, but you'd think there would have been more structure and executives.

Would you like to hear something surprising about that?

Even in the year 2021, we STILL see this in Texas once in a while. Here is how the conversation goes at my job:

My Boss: Wade Luce died last week, so I don't know what will happen with these contracts.

Me: What do you mean? Luce Oil Company is HUGE. Surely they have a plan in place.

Boss: I heard Wade was still keeping the books on yellow pads in his old office. Nobody knows if they can untangle everything.

Me: But they own all that land. And all that equipment. Surely there is some structure in place.

Boss: Wade was still running the show and they don't even know who is in charge right now. So keep doing what you're doing, but don't spend any money that you don't have to on the Luce projects, because we might never get paid for those.

Me: I wonder if I can still return those new boots I just bought?
 
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DallasFanForever

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I agree with everything’s that been said so far but I think the show would’ve been a lot more boring without J.R. wheeling and dealing and being held accountable to a board of directors. And the fights with Bobby over all their decisions wouldn’t have happened as often either. I’ll take the dysfunctional mess that Ewing Oil was, thank you!
 

the-lost-son

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In my opinion it was a (quite accurate) image of the business world at that time. Apart from (some of) the criminal activities JR as Ewing president did, many other elements of office/business politics were portayed accurately. I‘ve been working in big (European) companies twenty years ago - alcohol and smoking at desk, hiring people by their looks, dominant decision-making, backstabbing of long-standing business relations...

With „me-too„ and society changes in general many things aren‘t possible today which were common back in those days.
As Ewing Oil had been a family owned company, board members had to be picked by them. So you can‘t expect much resistence by them.
 

Rove

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Question. Why would there be a "Board" if Ewing Oil was an Independent Oil Company? It was privately owned by the Ewing family therefore a board was not required. While the company would have a Chief Financial Officer as an example imagine how boring it would be if we had to contend with Board of Director scenes. These meetings took place in the Southfork living room...between members of the Ewing family. This is what made Dallas entertaining.
 

Mustard

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It was very well run a lot of the time, although not from a stability or reliability standpoint that something like West Star Oil was. J.R. would take big risks that could have bankrupted everything at times, but also made it possible for Ewing Oil to become billionaires.

Ewing Oil was one of the last of the independent oil companies (privately owned by the Ewing family, and usually run by J.R.), one of the most successful ones too, that the giant corporations wanted to gobble up. So while the Ewings are big fish, they are not sharks like Jeremy Wendell.
 
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Angela Channing

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Even private companies have boards. It's more about the size of the company rather than whether it's public or privately owned. Take a company like Dyson, the vacuum cleaner manufacturers, it's owned 100% by James Dyson but has about 20 different directors.
 

Mustard

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Even private companies have boards. It's more about the size of the company rather than whether it's public or privately owned. Take a company like Dyson, the vacuum cleaner manufacturers, it's owned 100% by James Dyson but has about 20 different directors.

Not all private companies have a board. It's up to the owner(s), if they think it's necessary.

And yes, like J.R. said at one point to Miss Ellie "100% makes us owners. 80% makes us shareholders".

But in 2021, a company with the profits of Ewing Oil is not likely to be an independent oil company. The oil business now is not the oil business of the 1970s and 1980s, and Ewing Oil were under pressure from the likes of West Star Oil even in the 1980s. It would be far harder to resist them today.

In a similar way, the oil business of the 1970s and 1980s is not the same as the wildcatting days of Jock Ewing and Digger Barnes in the 1930s.
 
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Angela Channing

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Not all private companies have a board. It's up to the owner(s), if they think it's necessary.

And yes, like J.R. said at one point to Miss Ellie "100% makes us owners. 80% makes us shareholders".
I agree but it's hard to imagine a company worth over a billion dollars with an international operation being run successfully by one or two people who manage everything from the finances, the staff, the research, the drilling, exploration, the strategy, the acquisitions etc., and still have time to spend most to the day shagging several different women.
 

Mustard

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I agree but it's hard to imagine a company worth over a billion dollars with an international operation being run successfully by one or two people who manage everything from the finances, the staff, the research, the drilling, exploration, the strategy, the acquisitions etc., and still have time to spend most to the day shagging several different women.

The owners of Ewing Oil obviously delegated some of that responsibility, like the exploration, drilling and international operations, and paid them well to ensure loyalty.

Still, I do agree that it would be very unlikely today, with corporate behemoths everywhere. In the 1980s, not as much. That was era of the "yuppies" after all. Even in the 1980s on Dallas, "the Cartel" was formed by some independent oil companies to resist the corporate giants like West Star. Ewing Oil would often co-operate with the Cartel, but never actually joined them.

Also, Ewing Oil weren't billionaires until they owned those wells in South Asia.
 
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Lastkidpicked

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Question. Why would there be a "Board" if Ewing Oil was an Independent Oil Company?
As Ewing Oil had been a family owned company, board members had to be picked by them. So you can‘t expect much resistence by them.
Ewing Oil was one of the last of the independent oil companies (privately owned by the Ewing family, and usually run by J.R.
it's hard to imagine a company worth over a billion dollars with an international operation being run successfully by one or two people who manage everything from the finances, the staff, the research, the drilling, exploration, the strategy, the acquisitions etc., and still have time to spend most to the day shagging several different women.

Each one of you are correct, and I have some inside knowledge about this I'm happy to share with you:

Let's use Ewing Oil as an example, and let's say it's the early years when Jock owned and ran the company. Now, Jock may be smart but he can't know everything. So he creates an advisory board. This advisory board would consist of people who are active and successful in their industries, and would consist of a banker, an attorney, a real estate professional, a tax pro, and a compliance expert, among others. They would meet monthly to advise Jock and give him a point of view from their experience. Here is how a discussion could flow:

Jock: I'm thinking of purchasing the Mainwaring Refinery

Real Estate Pro: They aren't issuing permits to build new refineries, so Mainwaring should go up in value over the years. Sounds like a good investment.

Compliance expert: Be careful, Jock. There may be spills from 20 years ago that everybody forgot about. Once you buy that refinery, you buy the liability for any spill that ever happened there, even before you owned it.

Attorney: I know a good remediation company. They can do soil and water tests at Mainwaring and also in the two towns near the refinery. I'd make the deal contingent on those tests.

Banker: I agree, and would go one step further. You and Mainwaring can each contribute one million dollars to an escrow fund, to be used for monitoring and compliance while you are working towards closing the deal.

Jock: Sounds good. I'll set up the deal that way, and will move ahead on it next week. Now, the next order of business . . .

By reading that example, you can see how helpful it is to have an advisory board.

"But, Lastkidpicked, wouldn't Ewing Oil already have attorneys, bankers, and compliance officers working for them?"

Glad you asked!

The difference is that the board is made up of people outside Ewing Oil, so they bring a whole different perspective. And they are there to advise Jock, but they don't work for him and are not paid by him, so they can speak freely and not worry about saying the wrong thing."

"Wait-- They're not paid for this?"

Again, glad you asked! Most of the board members are successfully employed or own a successful business. They don't need the money from being on the board, and so they are not paid at all, or paid a small stipend. The general agreement is that the banker serves on Jock's board once a month, and Jock serves on that banker's board once a month. Jock would bring to the table his knowledge of the oil business and his opinion of where the market is headed.

But in 2021, a company with the profits of Ewing Oil is not likely to be an independent oil company. The oil business now is not the oil business of the 1970s and 1980s, and Ewing Oil were under pressure from the likes of West Star Oil even in the 1980s. It would be far harder to resist them today.

Mustard makes a good point here, and again I am in the middle of it right now here in Texas. The Seven Sisters (or today, the Supermajors) have lots and lots of reserve cash on hand. When times are good, they add to that cash reserve. When times are bad, they use that cash to go on buying sprees and buy up the smaller companies who are struggling.

There is a great scene in J.R. Returns . Carter Mckay is president of Westar and is getting ready to buy Ewing Oil from Cliff Barnes.

J.R. I thought we should talk. You're buying Ewing Oil from Cliff. Why? He's no threat to you.
McKay: Ewing Oil has some good fields and we have the money to develop them.
J.R. And if this deal goes through, what would happen to Ewing Oil? Would it cease to exist?
McKay: Like Jonah and the Whale, we would swallow it whole.
J.R. Picking off the independents, one by one. Is that it?
McKay: Something like that.

And this is happening in Texas right now. The price of crude is down from a few years ago, the world is moving toward renewables, and it's a bit of a scary time for the independents. So the bigger fish are swallowing the smaller fish as we speak.

It's fascinating to watch Dallas, all these years later, and see how well they mirrored what is happening now. Or as @James from London would say, life imitating art.
 
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Jabari Lamar

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Larry did the math and determined JR lost 2 billion dollars during the course of the show -- back when a billion dollars was ton of money..
I believe he got that number from the storyline where the Feds ending up shutting Ewing Oil down, in addition to being forced to sell their assets and losing rights to the name "Ewing Oil" they were fined $2 billion.

But yes this is something @stevew and I have discussed here before in various threads, the way Ewing Oil was shown as being run was pretty unrealistic. Yeah, it was an "independent family-owned business" but, as has been noted, this was a billion-dollar, repeatedly referred to as the biggest indie oil company in Texas, if not the nation, not some little Mom & Pop convenience store, where if the owner's car broke down he could just go to the store and take a couple of hundred out of the cash register to pay a mechanic to fix it. But it was often portrayed as if it was more like the latter. There should have several other people, senior executive vice presidents and whatnot who were in charge of various departments in offices right next to J.R. and Bobby (I recall that we did occasionally see them meeting with other execs, in board meetings, but it was never a regular thing), who would have in involved and had a say in many of the various deals they did. And like the infamous "nobody gives you power" scene, even Jock would not have just been able to unilaterally take $10 million out of Ewing Oil's accounts without Bobby, who was President at the time, at least having to be told about it first. This would have required all sorts of paperwork that he would have needed to sign. Or the time J.R. put in that fake bid for those Asian oil wells without Bobby's consent, even though they were co-presidents at the time. You just can't do things like that.
 

Lastkidpicked

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And like the infamous "nobody gives you power" scene, even Jock would not have just been able to unilaterally take $10 million out of Ewing Oil's accounts without Bobby, who was President at the time, at least having to be told about it first. This would have required all sorts of paperwork that he would have needed to sign.

Jabari makes a good point, and that point stands up well in 2021. But if you'll allow me to offer a perspective from 1980:

Around Dallas, I could go into most smaller hardware stores or warehouses and as long as I was in my company truck, with company logos, I could basically say, "We don't have an account here yet, but I really need these three valves." And they would give them to me. Why? They knew we would become customers and this was a great way to get us started. There's a small risk of me running off and them never getting paid, but it's a small risk compared to the potential reward.

To put a finer point on it: Ray Krebbs shows up at your store in a Southfork Ranch truck and asks for a stock tank. Do you want to be the one who tells him, "No. Southfork doesn't have an account here."

Or do you want to be the one who landed the Southfork account by giving Ray that stock tank.

The same thing happened when Jock took out the money. Think about if you were a junior level executive. Do you want Jock Ewing to go marching up to your bosses and tell them you refused his request to take money from the Ewing Oil account?

Now, I'm not saying any of this is correct, legal, or proper. We have an expression in the oil field that "You go along to get along" and it all works out in the end.

On a personal note, I don't mean to contradict the smart posters on here. You just hit on a subject that I see every day and love talking about it. And very much enjoy the back and forth. But I'll step out a bit and lot others have their say now.

Again, really enjoying the back and forth and hope you are, too.
 
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