Energy Barons

It may seem like anyone could have made money in oil this year, but it takes a special knack to make $1.1 billion in a single year.

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It may seem like anyone could have made money in the oil business this year. But it takes a special knack to make $1.1 billion in a single year, which is what Clay Riddell, No. 11 on our Rich 100, managed to do. Or even $470 million, the amount by which Murray Edwards, No. 22, saw his net worth increase. For these oil barons and others on our list, making barrels of money was the result of savvy business decisions and keen investing know-how.

In April, Riddell, chairman of Paramount Resources Ltd., spun out some oil-and-gas-producing properties in central Alberta into the newly formed Trilogy Energy Trust. Smart move. Before the spin-out, Paramount was trading at about $30, worth $911 million to Riddell. The share price dropped by half the day Trilogy began trading, but had climbed back to close at $29 on Oct. 21, our cut-off date for this list. Meanwhile, Trilogy, which ended its first day of trading at $16.10, is now worth more than $23. Riddell, on top of holding more than 31 million Paramount shares, owns some 31 million Trilogy shares, worth $726 million.

On a smaller scale, Seymour Schulich, No. 59 on our list, had a net worth increase of $63 million. In October 2004, he disclosed his 2.5 million units of Canadian Oil Sands Trust, acquired at an average price of $44 per unit (and trading at around $59 at the time). Having gained only $20 in the previous three years, the units took off late last year, climbing more than $45 over 12 months to close at $105.50 on Oct. 21.

At times, the keenest investors just know when to hold ‘em. Murray Edwards saw his major holdings — Canadian Natural Resources, Ensign Energy Services and Penn West Petroleum — increase in value over the past year. The CNR stock split in May, and the price keeps climbing. Shares in Ensign rose 45% over the past year, and Penn West became Penn West Energy Trust in May, sending Edwards’ stake up $90 million by October.

Ron Southern, chairman of ATCO, a utilities and power-generation conglomerate, saw his net worth increase by 35% since last year, placing him at No. 52 on our list. ATCO’s stock split earlier this year, as did shares of affiliated companies Akita Drilling and Canadian Utilities.

Oil guy to watch: Keith MacPhail, president and CEO of Bonavista Energy Trust and NuVista Energy. With an estimated $348 million, he is the 105th-richest Canadian. And because the value of his companies is climbing, had we done his valuation at the end of November he would likely have made the Rich 100 list. Keep holding, Keith.

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