Exxon Mobil will relocate the bulk of XTO Energy’s Fort Worth operation to a campus near Houston in a move that will cost the city 1,600 jobs and leave a number of downtown buildings for sale.
The oil and gas producer, which was acquired by Exxon in 2010, announced the move to its employees on Friday. Company officials said that 1,200 employees will be moved to Houston in 2018 with another 400 transferring in 2020.
XTO will keep about 350 employees in Fort Worth assigned to its Central Division/Fort Worth District as well as some Midstream Operations employees in the field supporting Barnett Shale operations. The expanded Central Division/Fort Worth District employees will move from the Stockyards to one of XTO’s downtown buildings when space becomes available.
XTO, founded in Fort Worth in 1986 by Bob Simpson, Steve Palko and Jon Brumley as Cross Timbers Oil, is credited with contributing to the rebirth of downtown by buying and rehabilitating a number of old office buildings. It gradually emerged as a top downtown employer as other Fort Worth companies such as RadioShack declined.
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The company plans to sell six of the seven buildings it owns in Fort Worth in a phased marketing approach, said Suann Guthrie, a company spokeswoman. It owns six buildings downtown as well as the former Swift & Co. building in the Stockyards.
“It’s a sad day to hear that a legacy company like XTO is announcing a move from Fort Worth,” said Bill Thornton, president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. “You talk about Fort Worth entrepreneurs, establishing itself as it did on the world landscape ... it’s a disappointing day.”
Fort Worth is a business and community-oriented city, and we appreciate the partnership we have had. The move is not a reflection of our feelings about doing business in Fort Worth.
Sara Ortwein, XTO Energy president
The decision to move was made after an extensive study reviewing all aspects of the business, the company said in a statement. Irving-based Exxon Mobil has invested in a state-of-the-art campus in Houston that contains its other businesses, and the company is seeing benefits from having all of them in one location.
Since XTO is a key part of Exxon Mobil, it will be better able to collaborate and share expertise with the other business divisions, the company statement said.
“Fort Worth is a business and community-oriented city, and we appreciate the partnership we have had. The move is not a reflection of our feelings about doing business in Fort Worth,” Sara Ortwein, XTO Energy’s president, said in statement. “XTO is an important part of Exxon Mobil and this move will enable collaboration and provide more opportunities to share expertise across the entire corporation.”
“We appreciate our community partnership and will maintain strong ties to the community through our employees who will continue to be in the Fort Worth area,” Ortwein said. “Together we have done many great things, such as improving pedestrian safety and awareness, and working with Downtown Fort Worth Inc. and the Mayor’s Development Council on improving building standards, lighting standards, landscaping and aesthetics.”
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price learned of the company’s move while in Canada on a trade mission. She said she was surprised by the call, describing the news as a blow to the community at a time when Fort Worth is booming.
Price said XTO is “an incredible company” that grew from just a few employees into one of the largest independent oil and gas companies in the U.S. She said the company has been a big part of Fort Worth’s history for the past couple of decades.
“It was such a success story for Fort Worth,” she said.
Price said the company will “leave a legacy” with the historic buildings it has redone.
“I’m sorry for their employees,” Price said. “I hate to lose them. They’ve been a good corporate partner for us. While we’ll miss them, we will push on. I wish them well.”
When Exxon bought XTO in 2010, it said it would keep the company in Fort Worth, despite having massive land holdings in Houston. The local real estate community has speculated for years that the company might move to Houston.
Exxon Mobil bought a wooded 385-acre tract about 20 miles north of downtown Houston in 2008 and three years later began building a 20-building, 3 million-square-foot campus, large enough to hold about 10,000 employees.
By 2015, the campus was reported to already house more than 4,000 workers.
XTO is one of the largest landowners in downtown Fort Worth. It owns six properties totaling more than 700,000 square feet of office space. Starting under the tutelage of CEO Bob Simpson, the company spent untold millions to restore downtown office buildings, paying special attention to historic details.
Simpson, who bought the Texas Rangers with Dallas oilman Ray Davis after the sale to Exxon, later bought and renovated the old Star-Telegram building downtown, now home to his MorningStar Oil & Gas.
Over the years, XTO has been a major sponsor of many civic events, including the Parade of Lights and competitions for the National Cutting Horse Association. For many years, the company has been a player in the Sale of Champions at the Fort Worth Stock Show, paying six figures for top steers.
XTO’s corporate involvement has included work with Meals on Wheels, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Women’s Center, Boys and Girls Clubs and the Susan G. Komen Tarrant County Race for Cure.
In 2003, the company was awarded the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit of Enterprise Award.
Exxon hopes that most of XTO’s employees will make the move to Houston “because they have an expertise that the company values,” Guthrie, the company spokesman, said.
In recent years, Exxon has increased its profile in domestic shale drilling, something that XTO pioneered first in the Barnett Shale and then elsewhere.
In January, Exxon bought 275,000 acres in the booming Permian Basin oil fields from the Bass family for $5.6 billion in stock and $1 billion in contingent cash payouts. The oil company said the purchase covered 3.4 billion barrels of oil equivalent, nearly doubling its existing resources in the Permian to 6 billion barrels.
XTO Energy manages that project, which was the seventh transaction in the Permian Basin by Exxon in the last three years and its largest since the company bought XTO.
“This acquisition strengthens Exxon Mobil’s significant presence in the dominant U.S. growth area for onshore oil production,” Darren W. Woods, Exxon Mobil chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement at the time.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
XTO Energy properties
All in Fort Worth
W.T. Waggoner Building, 810 Houston St.
Bob R. Simpson Building, 110 W. Houston St.
Petroleum Building, 210 W. Sixth St.
Transport Life Building, 714 Main St.
Montgomery Ward/Tindall Storage building at 810 Grove St.
Bennie G. Kniffen Building at 210 E. 7th St.
Former Swift & Co. building, Exchange Avenue and Stockyards Boulevard