Oil and Gas

Top exec Blackwell out at Knight Oil Tools Amid rampant speculation the embattled company is entertaining potential suitors, new president and CEO confirms his departure.

by Leslie Turk

Earl Blackwell

Reached on his cell phone Monday morning, Earl Blackwell confirmed to ABiz that he is no longer running Knight Oil Tools — what at one time was, and may still be, the world’s largest privately held rental and fishing tools company.

In recent weeks, Knight Oil Tools removed the “executive biographies” section from its website; the company founded in 1972 by the late Eddy Knight and headquartered at 2727 SE Evangeline Thruway no longer lists managers and owners on the site.

Blackwell, who declined to comment on reasons for his departure from the entity he helmed for about a year, says he does not have another job lined up. “I’ve kind of just spent a little time decompressing,” he says.

According to an ABiz source, at least one additional unnamed top official has also left the company in recent weeks, but Blackwell says he has no information on that official and also declined to comment on rampant speculation the company is for sale, referring ABiz’s questions to Kelley Knight Sobiesk. A voice mail message left for Sobiesk Monday was not returned.

Sobiesk is a sister to Mark Knight, the oil patch millionaire and former company head accused of participating in a conspiracy to plant illegal drugs on the vehicle of another sibling, Bryan Knight, in order to force Bryan out of the lucrative family business. Bryan Knight was arrested in June 2014 after the drugs were discovered in a magnetic case underneath his vehicle during a traffic stop. The charges against Bryan were never pursued.

Photo by Robin May

Mark Knight, now 58, and three others were arrested in April 2015 and indicted by a Lafayette Parish grand jury in July on a racketeering charge in connection with the alleged drug-planting plot. Also indicted were former Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Kinch, former State Trooper Corey Jackson and ex-Knight Oil Tools employee Russell Manuel. The indictment says the quartet intentionally or knowingly "conducted or participated, directly or indirectly, in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity.”

Authorities claim Mark Knight paid the trio more than $100,000 in cash and gifts to set his brother up. All four have pleaded not guilty.

Bryan Knight, 56, has since filed a civil suit against the four.

Mark Knight was fired as president and CEO of the company about six months before his April 2015 arrest on the racketeering charge but remained chairman of its board of directors. He was removed from the board within days of his arrest.

Blackwell, who had worked for months with Mark Knight as a consultant for Knight Oil Tools, replaced Mark in the top job in late 2014 (the company, however, did not confirm the change in leadership until January). Blackwell had previously worked for Lafayette businessman Mike Moreno’s bankrupt Green Field Energy Services and before that was with the local private equity firm Moody, Moreno and Rucks.

Blackwell has deep roots in the Acadiana community. He earned a degree in business administration from UL Lafayette (then USL) and was a CPA from 1968 to 1981. He also at one time was president and chief operating officer for Toby Warren’s The Flagg Group, which was behind such developments as Le Triomphe, The Settlement, Oak Trace, Myrtle Square, Points of View, Flagg on the Green and Brandywine.

Read more about the Knight family saga here.