InterOil Founder Abandons Fight to Derail Exxon’s Takeover

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InterOil Corp. founder and ex-CEO Phil Mulacek said most of the natural gas explorer’s shareholders will vote in favor of Exxon Mobil Corp.’s acquisition on Wednesday, despite his two-month campaign to hold out for a better deal.

Mulacek, who founded InterOil in the 1990s and led it until he stepped down in 2013, objected to Exxon’s bid when it was announced in July, saying InterOil directors should have pressed for a better deal. During the final months of Mulacek’s tenure as chief executive officer, negotiations were underway with Exxon over an offer three times higher than the current transaction, he said on Tuesday. Mulacek’s 5.35 percent stake makes him InterOil’s third-largest investor.

“They’ll win the vote,” Mulacek said in a telephone interview from Singapore. “We’re dissenting. I was there when Exxon was offering a lot more. That was a very fair and equitable deal for both companies.”

Aaron Palash, a spokesman for InterOil with the firm Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer & Katcher, declined to comment. Alan Jeffers, an Exxon spokesman, also declined to comment.

Shareholders in the Papua New Guinea-focused driller are scheduled to vote Wednesday at noon in New York on Exxon’s offer to pay $2.5 billion to $3.6 billion for the company. Under a deal struck on July 21, Exxon would pay between $45 and $71.87 for each share of InterOil, depending on how much gas its Elk-Antelope field holds. In a subsequent interview, Mulacek characterized the InterOil directors as “incompetents” who “ripped off shareholders” by settling for what he said was a poor deal.

Exxon already produces gas in the South Pacific nation where it operates a $19 billion liquefaction and export plant.