The Williams Cos. named the former CEO of Enterprise Products Partners to its board Tuesday just three months after Houston-based Enterprise attempted to purchase Williams to combine the two pipeline giants.
The appointment of retired Enterprise CEO Michael Creel doesn’t necessarily increase the odds of merger talks reviving, but it does raise eyebrows, analysts said.
“Certainly you can presume that if a combination does make sense, he’ll be in an ideal position to assess potential synergies and to bridge negotiations,” Ethan Bellamy, an energy analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co., said in an email. “On the other hand, it could just be a valuable board appointment by Williams.”
Williams on Tuesday named both Creel and attorney Charles “Casey” Cogut to its board. Creel retired from Enterprise at the end of 2015.
Enterprise in September said it withdrew an offer to buy Williams after speculation reached Wall Street. Enterprise CEO Jim Teague said the proposed acquisition offer was pulled because of a “lack of engagement” by Oklahoma-based Williams and because of the increasing rumors about a potential deal.
Such rumors began spreading in mid-August, just more than a month after the $33 billion deal for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners to buy Williams fell apart from buyer’s remorse.
The appointment comes during a larger trend of consolidations within the North American pipeline sector. Canada-based Enbridge agreed this week to buy Houston’s Spectra Energy for $28 billion. Likewise, TransCanada recently purchased Houston-based Columbia Pipeline Group for more than $10 billion.
Williams is still trying to stabilize itself after the Energy Transfer deal fell apart. Six of Williams’ 13 board members resigned when they failed to get CEO Alan Armstrong ousted after the deal collapsed. Two of the noisiest ones, who manage hedge funds, vowed to continue to fight.