Bill Britain


Editor's note: This profile is part of Hart Energy's 50th anniversary Hall of Fame series honoring industry pioneers of the past 50 years and the Agents of Change (ACEs) who are leading the energy sector into the future.

Bill Britain

Buying things online is a daily practice taken for granted today, but it took visionary businessmen and women to build the user-friendly technology and consumer confidence that shifted huge swaths of commerce to the digital world.

For purchasing oil and gas properties online, it was Bill Britain (1948-2023), who co-founded EnergyNet in 1999 after using eBay for the first time.

“It was kind of a novel idea at the beginning, and he built it into something that’s a really robust business. It’s kind of an industry standard of how oil and gas or assets are now transacted where that didn’t exist before,” said Chris Atherton, CEO and president of EnergyNet. 

When Britain passed away in January, he left behind a digital platform widely used in the oil and gas industry and a company with 50 employees. 

“We’re going on $10 billion in asset sales,” Atherton said “We sell today 2,000 to 2,500 individual transactions per year. We’ve done deals as large as $250 million.”

Britain was a 1972 West Point graduate who served as an Army officer in various posts for five years. In 1987, he co-founded and built J-Brex, a successful E&P—as well as building the knowledge base he would use when he founded EnergyNet.

Ethan House, a managing director at EnergyNet, said Britain was making deals in the late 1990s when he realized there had to be a better way to sell leftover assets too small to be of interest to large buyers.

“He felt like the market was far more liquid than a one-day sale a month and could be done on a 24/7 basis. That was really his epiphany,” House said. “He had a bunch of small assets that were at the end of a large sale. Instead of having those assets get left behind for bigger deals effectively, [he knew] that there were more people out there that could access it than have to go to a live sale effectively. And why not open it up to more?”

House said Britain pursued this not with a deep knowledge of computers, but a belief that there was an unknown demand for this service.

“The guy has unbelievable vision and has an ability to put a puzzle together of people—and quality people—consistently,” House said. “I remember going into offices back then and telling people you were going to sell their deal online, and they just kind of laughed you out of the room, [saying,] ‘No way, you can’t do that.’ … Bill just had, honestly, a hunch and an idea and a vision to do it, and he made it happen.” 

Bill Britain
Bill Britain, founder of EnergyNet, was an avid hunter and fisherman and traveled extensively. (Source: Britain family)

House said Britain’s entrepreneurial spirit shined through when he interviewed with him for a job at EnergyNet.

He remembers Britain saying to him, “We are still working on this. This is still new and there’s no guarantee this thing actually works, but if you’re willing to take a chance on it and take a chance with us, we want you on board.”

—Patrick McGee, Senior Editor, Finance

Click here to see the rest of Hart Energy's 2023 Hall of Fame.