There is currently a proxy fight going on at Texas Pacific Land Trust, and it is really quite something. For one thing, it is a once-in-a-lifetime, or maybe thrice-in-a-lifetime, event: TPL, a publicly traded $5.7 billion company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, doesn’t have proxy fights all that often, because its board of directors (technically, board of trustees) has only three members, and they are all elected for life. So if TPL shareholders are dissatisfied with how the company is run and want to elect a new trustee, they have to wait for one of the old ones to die.
One of the old ones died this March. And there are some TPL shareholders who were dissatisfied with how the company is run and want to elect a new trustee. It is a weird company, TPL. It is a royalty trust that “was born out of the bankruptcy of Texas Pacific Railway Co.” in 1888. The railroad owned a lot of land in Texas, and the trust inherited that land. It became a publicly listed company in 1927 and bopped sleepily along for decades. But “much of the Trust’s land is located in the Permian Basin, which is currently at the center of the country’s oil and gas exploration and production,” and now it is quite valuable; in the last 10 years, oil and gas royalty revenues have increased almost tenfold and TPL has had a total shareholder return of 3,856%. It has become less sleepy, too; it actively buys, sells and trades its land, and in 2017 it launched an operating subsidiary that provides water services.