Texaco, Inc. v. Pennzoil, Co., No. 01-86-0216-CV

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas
Writing for the CourtWARREN; It is not surprising that attorneys are the principal source of contributions in a judicial election. We judicially know that voter apathy is a continuing problem, especially in judicial races and particularly in contests for a seat on an app
Citation729 S.W.2d 768
Docket NumberNo. 01-86-0216-CV
Decision Date12 February 1987
PartiesTEXACO, INC., Appellant, v. PENNZOIL, CO., Appellee. (1st Dist.)

Page 768

729 S.W.2d 768
55 USLW 2454
TEXACO, INC., Appellant,
v.
PENNZOIL, CO., Appellee.
No. 01-86-0216-CV.
Court of Appeals of Texas,
Houston (1st Dist.).
Feb. 12, 1987.
Rehearings Denied April 24 and May 26, 1987.

Page 784

Russell H. McMains, McMains & Constant, Corpus Christi, Gibson Gayle, Jr., James B. Sales, Fulbright & Jaworski, Richard B. Miller, Richard P. Keeton, Miller, Keeton, Bristow & Brown, Houston, William R. Edwards, Edwards & Terry, Corpus Christi, for appellant.

Joseph D. Jamail, Jamail & Kolius, John L. Jeffers, G. Irvin Terrell, Randall A. Hopkins, Baker & Botts, W. James Kronzer, Law Offices of W. James Kronzer, Harry M. Reasoner, Vinson & Elkins, Houston, Luther H. Soules, III, Soules & Reed, San Antonio, Royal H. Brin, Jr., Thomas C. Unis, Strasburger & Price, Dallas, Louis S. Muldrow, Waco, for appellee.

Before WARREN, JACK SMITH and SAM BASS, JJ.

OPINION

WARREN, Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment awarding Pennzoil damages for Texaco's tortious interference with a contract between Pennzoil and the "Getty entities" (Getty Oil Company, the Sarah C. Getty Trust, and the J. Paul Getty Museum).

The jury found, among other things, that:

(1) At the end of a board meeting on January 3, 1984, the Getty entities intended to bind themselves to an agreement providing for the purchase of Getty Oil stock, whereby the Sarah C. Getty Trust would own 4/7th of the stock and Pennzoil the remaining 3/7th; and providing for a division of Getty Oil's assets, according to their respective ownership if the Trust and Pennzoil were unable to agree on a restructuring of Getty Oil by December 31, 1984;

(2) Texaco knowingly interfered with the agreement between Pennzoil and the Getty entities;

(3) As a result of Texaco's interference, Pennzoil suffered damages of $7.53 billion;

(4) Texaco's actions were intentional, willful, and in wanton disregard of Pennzoil's rights; and,

(5) Pennzoil was entitled to punitive damages of $3 billion.

The main questions for our determination are: (1) whether the evidence supports the jury's finding that there was a binding contract between the Getty entities and Pennzoil, and that Texaco knowingly induced a breach of such contract; (2) whether the trial court properly instructed the

Page 785

jury on the law pertinent to the case; (3) whether the evidence supported the jury's damage awards; (4) whether the trial court committed reversible error in its admission and exclusion of certain evidence; (5) whether the conduct and posture of the trial judge denied Texaco a fair trial; and (6) whether the judgment violates certain articles of the United States Constitution.

Though many facts are disputed, the parties' main conflicts are over the inferences to be drawn from, and the legal significance of, these facts. There is evidence that for several months in late 1983, Pennzoil had followed with interest the well-publicized dissension between the board of directors of Getty Oil Company and Gordon Getty, who was a director of Getty Oil and also the owner, as trustee, of approximately 40.2% of the outstanding shares of Getty Oil. On December 28, 1983, Pennzoil announced an unsolicited, public tender offer for 16 million shares of Getty Oil at $100 each.

Soon afterwards, Pennzoil contacted both Gordon Getty and a representative of the J. Paul Getty Museum, which held approximately 11.8% of the shares of Getty Oil, to discuss the tender offer and the possible purchase of Getty Oil. In the first two days of January 1984, a "Memorandum of Agreement" was drafted to reflect the terms that had been reached in conversations between representatives of Pennzoil, Gordon Getty, and the Museum.

Under the plan set out in the Memorandum of Agreement, Pennzoil and the Trust (with Gordon Getty as trustee) were to become partners on a 3/7ths to 4/7ths basis respectively, in owning and operating Getty Oil. Gordon Getty was to become chairman of the board, and Hugh Liedtke, the chief executive officer of Pennzoil, was to become chief executive officer of the new company.

The Memorandum of Agreement further provided that the Museum was to receive $110 per share for its 11.8% ownership, and that all other outstanding public shares were to be cashed in by the company at $110 per share. Pennzoil was given an option to buy an additional 8 million shares to achieve the desired ownership ratio. The plan also provided that Pennzoil and the Trust were to try in good faith to agree upon a plan to restructure Getty Oil within a year, but if they could not reach an agreement, the assets of Getty Oil were to be divided between them, 3/7ths to Pennzoil and 4/7ths to the Trust.

The Memorandum of Agreement stated that it was subject to approval of the board of Getty Oil, and it was to expire by its own terms if not approved at the board meeting that was to begin on January 2. Pennzoil's CEO, Liedtke, and Gordon Getty, for the Trust, signed the Memorandum of Agreement before the Getty Oil board meeting on January 2, and Harold Williams, the president of the Museum, signed it shortly after the board meeting began. Thus, before it was submitted to the Getty Oil board, the Memorandum of Agreement had been executed by parties who together controlled a majority of the outstanding shares of Getty Oil.

The Memorandum of Agreement was then presented to the Getty Oil board, which had previously held discussions on how the company should respond to Pennzoil's public tender offer. A self-tender by the company to shareholders at $110 per share had been proposed to defeat Pennzoil's tender offer at $100 per share, but no consensus was reached.

The board voted to reject recommending Pennzoil's tender offer to Getty's shareholders, then later also rejected the Memorandum of Agreement price of $110 per share as too low. Before recessing at 3 a.m., the board decided to make a counter-proposal to Pennzoil of $110 per share plus a $10 debenture. Pennzoil's investment banker reacted to this price negatively. In the morning of January 3, Getty Oil's investment banker, Geoffrey Boisi, began calling other companies, seeking a higher bid than Pennzoil's for the Getty Oil shares.

When the board reconvened at 3 p.m. on January 3, a revised Pennzoil proposal was presented, offering $110 per share plus a $3 "stub" that was to be paid after the sale of a Getty Oil subsidiary ("ERC"), from the

Page 786

excess proceeds over $1 billion. Each shareholder was to receive a pro rata share of these excess proceeds, but in any case, a minimum of $3 per share at the end of five years. During the meeting, Boisi briefly informed the board of the status of his inquiries of other companies that might be interested in bidding for the company. He reported some preliminary indications of interest, but no definite bid yet.

The Museum's lawyer told the board that, based on his discussions with Pennzoil, he believed that if the board went back "firm" with an offer of $110 plus a $5 stub, Pennzoil would accept it. After a recess, the Museum's president (also a director of Getty Oil) moved that the Getty board should accept Pennzoil's proposal provided that the stub be raised to $5, and the board voted 15 to 1 to approve this counter-proposal to Pennzoil. The board then voted themselves and Getty's officers and advisors indemnity for any liability arising from the events of the past few months. Additionally, the board authorized its executive compensation committee to give "golden parachutes" (generous termination benefits) to the top executives whose positions "were likely to be affected" by the change in management. There was evidence that during another brief recess of the board meeting, the counter-offer of $110 plus a $5 stub was presented to and accepted by Pennzoil. After Pennzoil's acceptance was conveyed to the Getty board, the meeting was adjourned, and most board members left town for their respective homes.

That evening, the lawyers and public relations staff of Getty Oil and the Museum drafted a press release describing the transaction between Pennzoil and the Getty entities. The press release, announcing an agreement in principle on the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement but with a price of $110 plus a $5 stub, was issued on Getty Oil letterhead the next morning, January 4, and later that day, Pennzoil issued an identical press release.

On January 4, Boisi continued to contact other companies, looking for a higher price than Pennzoil had offered. After talking briefly with Boisi, Texaco management called several meetings with its in-house financial planning group, which over the course of the day studied and reported to management on the value of Getty Oil, the Pennzoil offer terms, and a feasible price range at which Getty might be acquired. Later in the day, Texaco hired an investment banker, First Boston, to represent it with respect to a possible acquisition of Getty Oil. Meanwhile, also on January 4, Pennzoil's lawyers were working on a draft of a formal "transaction agreement" that described the transaction in more detail than the outline of terms contained in the Memorandum of Agreement and press release.

On January 5, the Wall Street Journal reported on an agreement reached between Pennzoil and the Getty entities, describing essentially the terms contained in the Memorandum of Agreement. The Pennzoil board met to ratify the actions of its officers in negotiating an agreement with the Getty entities, and Pennzoil's attorneys periodically attempted to contact the other parties' advisors and attorneys to continue work on the transaction agreement.

The board of Texaco also met on January 5, authorizing its officers to make an offer for 100% of Getty Oil and to take any necessary action in connection therewith. Texaco first contacted the Museum's lawyer, Lipton, and arranged a meeting to discuss the sale of the Museum's shares of Getty Oil to Texaco. Lipton instructed his associate, on her way to the...

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231 practice notes
  • Metzger v. Sebek, No. 01-92-00912-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • September 29, 1994
    ...Clone Component Distribs. of Am., Inc. v. State, 819 S.W.2d 593, 597 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1991, no writ); Texaco, Inc. v. Pennzoil Co., 729 S.W.2d 768, 810 (Tex.App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1987, writ ref'd n.r.e.), cert. dism'd, 485 U.S. 994, 108 S.Ct. 1305, 99 L.Ed.2d 686 (1988); TEX.R.APP.P. 7......
  • Texas Ass'n of Business v. Texas Air Control Bd., No. C-9556
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • March 3, 1993
    ...made pursuant to all statutory requirements absent an express showing to the contrary in the record. Texaco, Inc. v. Pennzoil Co., 729 S.W.2d 768, 855 (Tex.App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1987, writ ref'd There is a type of lack of standing that this court formerly held to be fundamental error. W......
  • Texas Farmers Ins. Co. v. Soriano, No. 04-90-00222-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • November 30, 1992
    ...court only if it finds that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to suggest a remittitur. Texaco, Inc. v. Pennzoil, Co., 729 S.W.2d 768, 864 (Tex.App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1987, writ ref'd n.r.e.), cert. dismissed, 485 U.S. 994, 108 S.Ct. 1305, 99 L.Ed.2d 686 In Texaco, the cou......
  • Honda Motor Co. Ltd, et al. v. Oberg, 93644
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 24, 1994
    ...88 Md.App. 672, 596 A.2d 687, 709-711, 716-722 (1991), cert. denied, 326 Md. 435, 605 A.2d 137 (1992); Texaco, Inc. v. Pennzoil, Co., 729 S.W.2d 768 (Tex.App.1987); Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co., 119 Cal.App.3d 757, 174 Cal.Rptr. 348 (1981); Draper, Excessiveness or Inadequacy of Punitive Dama......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
230 cases
  • Metzger v. Sebek, No. 01-92-00912-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • September 29, 1994
    ...Clone Component Distribs. of Am., Inc. v. State, 819 S.W.2d 593, 597 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1991, no writ); Texaco, Inc. v. Pennzoil Co., 729 S.W.2d 768, 810 (Tex.App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1987, writ ref'd n.r.e.), cert. dism'd, 485 U.S. 994, 108 S.Ct. 1305, 99 L.Ed.2d 686 (1988); TEX.R.APP.P. 7......
  • Texas Ass'n of Business v. Texas Air Control Bd., No. C-9556
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • March 3, 1993
    ...made pursuant to all statutory requirements absent an express showing to the contrary in the record. Texaco, Inc. v. Pennzoil Co., 729 S.W.2d 768, 855 (Tex.App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1987, writ ref'd There is a type of lack of standing that this court formerly held to be fundamental error. W......
  • Texas Farmers Ins. Co. v. Soriano, No. 04-90-00222-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • November 30, 1992
    ...court only if it finds that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to suggest a remittitur. Texaco, Inc. v. Pennzoil, Co., 729 S.W.2d 768, 864 (Tex.App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1987, writ ref'd n.r.e.), cert. dismissed, 485 U.S. 994, 108 S.Ct. 1305, 99 L.Ed.2d 686 In Texaco, the cou......
  • Honda Motor Co. Ltd, et al. v. Oberg, 93644
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 24, 1994
    ...88 Md.App. 672, 596 A.2d 687, 709-711, 716-722 (1991), cert. denied, 326 Md. 435, 605 A.2d 137 (1992); Texaco, Inc. v. Pennzoil, Co., 729 S.W.2d 768 (Tex.App.1987); Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co., 119 Cal.App.3d 757, 174 Cal.Rptr. 348 (1981); Draper, Excessiveness or Inadequacy of Punitive Dama......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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