The hawk is back.

Former Petrohawk Energy Corp. founder Floyd Wilson’s newly formed Halcon Resources—Spanish for “hawk”—is set to take over publicly traded, Tulsa-based Ram Energy Resources Inc. February 8 in a reverse merger that will put the build-to-sell Wilson back into the driver’s seat of a public E&P.

Wilson sold Petrohawk for $15 billion to Australian minerals and mining conglomerate BHP Billiton in August. Shares of Ram have quadrupled since the announcement that he will take the helm.

In his first public appearances since forming Halcon, Wilson spoke to audiences at ADAM-Houston and Growth Capital Partners this past week on the sale and his new venture.

Halcon, pronounced Hal-cone, will infuse $550 million into Ram at closing, at which time the name will revert to Halcon Resources Corp. and Wilson will take over as chief executive, similar to when Petrohawk took over Beta Oil & Gas Inc. in 2004 to go public. Ram currently trades on the Nasdaq exchange, but will move to the New York Stock Exchange in a couple of weeks following closing.

While Ram holds conventional producing assets in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana, including approximately 4,300 BOE per day as of March 31, 2011, and 24.4 million BOE net proved reserves year-end 2010, Wilson said the vehicle is more important than the assets.

“It’s a good, clean platform with decent assets and willing participants with what is going on,” he said. “We found a shareholder group that was willing to do a deal quickly, and allow us to recapitalize their company and acquire control. It’s a platform.”

Wilson characterized Ram’s existing assets as good—and the company was trading at about the value of the assets at the time of the deal announcement—but “they are conventional, not exactly our style.”

Instead, no surprise, Wilson says Halcon will be a significant developer of several unconventional plays, a la Petrohawk, targeting oil and liquids-prone areas. “We’re in five already.”

Those five include the eastern part of the Mississippi lime, courtesy of the pending Ram acquisition where the company has shallow production in Oklahoma’s Osage County, the Woodbine in East Texas, the Utica Point Pleasant in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and two other undisclosed wildcat discoveries “along the lines of the Eagle Ford.

“We’re working hard on all of them.”

And like Petrohawk, Halcon will be at the leading edge of technology in every play where operating. “We intend to own the technology everywhere we work. We’ll make sure we’re at the leading edge and are willing to spend money on R&D wherever we work.”

One decision. The story of Halcon is the sequel to Petrohawk, and it’s important to understand Petrohawk to grasp the next chapter. Petrohawk sold at a 63% premium because of its dominant position in two leading shale plays—the Haynesville and Eagle Ford shales—and emerging oil-prone shale plays in the Permian Basin. And yet when Wilson formed Petrohawk in 2004, “our shale strategy was nonexistent.”

Petrohawk’s enormous success resulted in a bold change in business strategy mid-course.

That Petrohawk was built on doing the hard work of acquiring conventional reserves and drilling small wells, resulting in modest production and reserve growth. “Same old stuff.” But in 2007 Wilson decided to take a new direction.

“We decided to discontinue our conventional activities and sell everything we owned—that we had worked hard to build for four years. In 2008, we sold everything we had acquired. For all intents and purposes, we started over.

“We decided to concentrate in shales.”

Wilson was attracted to the prospects of the thick and extensive deposits of oil- and natural-gas-filled tight rock that characterized these plays. And though hard to release from the ground, these fields sometimes covered hundreds or thousands of square miles, and the repeatable and low dry-hole risk equated to a lower business risk.

Petrohawk’s greatest coup was in unlocking the economic value of the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas.

An early mover in the Haynesville shale, where average acreage values ranged between $10,000 and $20,000 an acre in 2008 when natural gas was $8 per Mcf, Wilson challenged his exploration team to find another Haynesville shale. Petrohawk senior geologist Dick Stoneburner knew a South Texas geologist, Greg Robertson, who had idea that the Eagle Ford might be similar to Haynesville.

“The idea was to find another zone of similar age to the Haynesville shale that might be more oily, and to get in there early.”

Within three to four weeks the company had leased some 200,000 acres on an average $400 per acre. Two horizontal test wells were drilled 35 miles apart, and they both hit.

“It was like a vacation,” Wilson remembers. “It was purely driven by geology and lithology and the rock properties. It was a pure scientific play, and it probably created the most successful shale play in the world today.”

The only mistake was in leasing just 350,000 acres, he laments. “We should have leased the whole countryside, but we were driven by a geologic concept. We had no idea what else would work or wouldn’t work.”

In just three and a half years Wilson rebuilt Petrohawk into a leading shale player, and in prime position to take advantage of an influx of foreign investment capital drawn to North American resource plays.

Wilson, however, did not invite multiple companies to bid for Petrohawk. Over the course of years, he had been not-so-subtly auctioning the company through public comments, reminding those that would listen that Petrohawk was a build-to-sell model. He even refused to bring in joint-venture partners to help fund development of its shale resources, as have done many others to avoid diluting the assets, and instead sold assets to stay pure, including its prized Fayetteville shale holdings.

Having kept abreast of the marketplace, he said he didn’t need to find three or four companies to drive up the bid. “I knew what the top value might be.”

Through investment banker connections, he was aware that BHP was seeking onshore U.S. shale opportunities. “They were looking and we had great assets.”

BHP is a successful developer of mineral resources worldwide, and was awash in cash. BHP was interested in a significant expansion into the U.S. unconventional resource business, and particularly in Petrohawk’s technical staff.

Petrohawk owned the technology in every field it worked in, he said. “Wherever we went, we did as well or better than anybody. We drilled hundreds of horizontal, hydraulically fractured wells, and every single one was successful.”

After selling its conventional assets, Petrohawk production bottomed at less than 100 million cubic feet of gas equivalent per day. In those three and a half years, the company grew to more than 1 billion cubic feet per day. Including proved and probable reserves, Petrohawk had discovered some 50 trillion cubic feet equivalent of new reserves in the resource plays.

Selling a company involves “a little bit of art,” he acknowledged, but “at the end of the day the assets have to speak for themselves.” And to capture the top value, “you have to find a buyer that is willing to look beyond the book assets and see the potential, and is willing to pay for that potential.”

The deal went down quick and quiet, he said, “amazing for a company the size of BHP.” Wilson and BHP chief executive Mike Yeager discussed the nuances over the course of a week and shook hands over the phone following green lights from their respective boards. BHP performed its due diligence in five weeks, at which time the deal was announced, and closed in another three. “It was amazing,” Wilson said.

But he wasn’t surprised at the $15-billion value, including $3 billion in debt repayment. “Our assets were second to none in the U.S. I can say that with pride.”

The new hawk. Wilson defers taking credit for Petrohawk’s accomplishments, and instead throws kudos to the team he built from 13 people to 750. “The success of Petrohawk is due to my success of talking a lot of great people into working there. I just stayed out of the way.”

He also paid in the top quartile to keep good people, “overachieved” with cash bonuses from 50% to at times 100% to reward productivity, and tried to replicate cash earnings with an equity piece each year. “There are a lot of people that worked for me that don’t have to work anymore if they don’t want to.”

And like at Petrohawk, he hopes to make a lot of Halcon employee-owners more financially secure than they are today, including the 20 currently employed and the 200 that will come on board with the Ram acquisition.

“First and foremost, you have to work with a group of like-minded people that are willing to look for a new job every four or five years. And one day we’ll sell to some big, smart company,” he alluded. Again, no surprise.

And once again, the sky is the limit for a serial build-and-sell hawk.