By Sophie Alexander and David Wethe
The billionaire owner of America’s Team is no stranger to contrarian investments. The serial entrepreneur generated enough money in the oil business to buy the National Football League club in 1989 at a time when it was bleeding cash and built it into the world’s most valuable franchise.
When the worst crude-price crash in a generation kicked off half a decade ago, explorers shifted to the pancaked layers of oil-soaked rock in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico for that field’s relatively lower costs. And although it has become the world’s biggest shale patch, Jones is looking elsewhere for growth.
“The gas in Haynesville is the best-cost hydrocarbons in the industry,” Jones, 77, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “My immediate plan is to continue to aggregate long-term reserves to have the most efficient source of natural gas.”
Earlier this month, Jones confirmed that his Comstock Resources Inc. is in talks to acquire shale gas assets in Louisiana from financially strapped Chesapeake Energy Corp. in a deal that could be valued at more than $1 billion. And in June, in another billion dollar deal, Comstock announced plans to acquire Covey Park Energy LLC, a closely held natural gas company with operations in the Haynesville area.
Jones said his long-term plans are to buy up oil and gas assets through Comstock, in which he owns a 73% stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Haynesville, which mostly produces natural gas, has been forlorn due to a nationwide glut of the heating and power plant fuel. The number of rigs drilling wells has steadily dropped over the past decade. The 53 rigs working there is down by more than two-thirds from early 2011, according to Baker Hughes Co.
Comstock shares have plunged 95% since July 2014, when crude prices first began to tumble. While rival gas drillers such as Chesapeake have sought to pump more oil, Comstock has pursued a different course, shifting deeper into gas by reducing crude to just 9% of output last year from 39% in 2014.
When Comstock announced plans to buy Covey Park, Jones likened the deal to his historic acquisition of the Cowboys, saying he bought when “everything was down and out.”
He was still smarting from the Cowboys’ 13-9 loss to the New England Patriots in the wind and rain on Sunday, but said he was looking forward to Thursday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
And despite his disappointment with the Cowboys season so far, he said he’s holding tight to both his team and his oil investments. “I have no plans to sell the Cowboys and I have no plans to sell Comstock.”