As ABiz reported Feb. 2, Earl Blackwell, who served as president and CEO of Knight Oil Tools for the past year, is no longer with the Lafayette-based oilfield service company. At the time ABiz noted Blackwell’s departure, the paper was unable to confirm whether other top execs had left the company in recent months as well. Kelley Knight Sobiesk, one of the three siblings who owns the company along with their mother, Ann Knight, did not return ABiz's call for that story.
But in its Feb. 13 story, “Lafayette’s Knight Oil Tools suffering more than most in energy downturn as internal family strife adds to woes,” The Advocate reported that longtime exec Doug Keller, who was named president of Knight Oil Tools International in early 2014, also is no longer with the company.
The Advocate story, however, went much deeper into Knight Oil Tools’ mounting financial and legal problems:
In late December, an aircraft leasing company filed a lawsuit against Knight Oil for millions of dollars due to a missed lease payment. And last summer, employees in Texas and Louisiana filed federal lawsuits claiming they were cheated out of overtime pay. The federal suits seek to add other employees who may be owed overtime wages.
It’s certainly not hard to see how the “largest privately held rental and fishing tool company in the world” (that’s how the company describes itself) would be struggling in light of falling oil prices — not to mention the shocking family conflict that led to racketeering charges against former Knight President and CEO Mark Knight, two law enforcement officials and a Knight employee, all of whom are accused of scheming to plant drugs on Mark’s younger brother in order to force him out of the profitable family business.
Just how much of a toll the family bickering and resulting legal problems have taken on the business is hard to calculate in light of changing market conditions. Shortly after Mark's arrest in April, there was rampant speculation that the company would be sold, and The Advocate's story alludes to the need for additional capital to keep the company going:
“Most recently, after it became apparent that new capital would be required to be infused into Knight Oil because of Mark’s lavish spending, mismanagement and theft of corporate assets, Mark Knight refused to allow investors to conduct their due diligence unless (Bryan Knight) dismissed his suit against him,” according to a December filing in the federal lawsuit.But is the massive international company “on the verge of bankruptcy,” as Mark Knight’s daughter, Heather Knight Billeaud, claims in a Dec. 31 Facebook post — one apparently set for public viewing?
The woman answering the phone at Knight’s Lafayette office transferred ABiz’s call for comment to Lyndon James, whom she identified at the company CEO, but a voice message left for James was not immediately returned. A second phone call from ABiz was transferred to Jeff Elmore, who also did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Below is Billeaud’s FB post:
As I look over the past year, as our family matters have played out in the media, I pray that I can work on forgiveness for those people that turned against my father…my father who has blessed this community and many others. This year my father walked into the office of a company that he worked at, grew, and loved for 45 years, for the last time. His departure from the company was not a personal choice but a decision made by his selfish and greedy sister and brother. His own family was involved in a two year plot to remove him from the company because they weren’t satisfied with their large, six figure salaries for never even working. My father was targeted, defaced, set-up, and criminalized as a result of this plot. Now, his brother and sister have had control of the company for an entire year and have brought it from a very profitable company, a pillar of the community, and the “largest privately held rental and fishing tool company in the world” to a company on the verge of bankruptcy. Knight Oil Tools no longer employs any of the Knight family and can no longer be considered a “family company.” As his daughter I find these injustices heart breaking. Mark Knight, my father, is a wonderful person that I’m so proud of. He has shown his family what hard work is all about and for that I admire him greatly. In the new year I hope that people’s true intentions will be shown. Happy New Year.... Looking forward to God’s Blessings in 2016! #ifyouonlyknewthewholetruth #teammark #KOTtruth #psalm35 #mediabiased #Godhelpus #tiredofnotspeakingup