Cameron Brown
31

Co-founder and Managing Partner, Pontem Energy Capital, Houston
6 FortyUnder40 Brown, Cameron

Cameron Brown, co-founder and managing partner of Pontem Energy Capital, started Pontem with the goal of capturing opportunity and building the team into one of the leading firms in the alternative investment space. Reflecting on the road to Pontem, he said, “The business was just an idea in my head at the end of 2019, and now it has 15 professionals, more work than we can handle, and is well positioned to capitalize on the continuation of a volatile investment landscape.

Brown studied engineering at MIT and was a captain on the school’s baseball team. He joined Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Marine and Arctic Upstream Development team as a materials engineer, where he developed his passion for upstream oil and gas. After Exxon, he transitioned to the financial side of the business, working in investment banking at Lazard, before shifting to principle investing at EnCap Investments LP and Citadel, putting him on the path to founding Pontem.

Pontem’s perspective

“Getting Pontem from inception to today has been the most challenging undertaking of my career. Trying to build a business on the principle that ‘the current strategy of existing upstream investment firms is not right for this environment, but I have a better mousetrap’ was an uphill battle. Pontem is not a portfolio company, nor are we a conventional private-equity firm, which are the buckets that people want to lump us into. We are an opportunistic, alternative capital provider that intentionally has one of the most capable technical teams in the space. We can invest passively, operate assets, invest across the capital structure and make big, chunky bets. There’s not many, if any, groups out there with that level of flexibility, so it made it that much harder to get off the ground.”

Invaluable experience

“Having substantial capital allocated to me early in my career at Citadel was crucial. There is no substitute for being given autonomous responsibility for something that could ultimately cost your investors millions of dollars and your team their jobs. That’s not to say it always went swimmingly—the public market is about resiliency and constantly iterating on your process to correct for past mistakes—but that massively accelerated my development timeline as an investment professional in the industry. When it comes to growing both professionally and personally, there’s nothing quite as effective as that pit in your stomach when you’re wrong and it matters.”

“If we don’t all become multidisciplinary stewards of this industry, we will struggle to flourish in the next chapter of our business.”

Leadership

“The technical and financial underwriting of investments in upstream is incredibly sophisticated, and we have all seen how easy it is to lose a lot of money very quickly due to a poor fundamental understanding of the risks of an investment. Great leaders in this business not only understand the full scope of the evaluation but are able to pinpoint areas of focus to effectively manage and mitigate inherent risks. Similarly, the people who can apply this lens to highlight and exploit the primary areas for potential value creation are the ones who I’ve found clearly differentiate themselves as leaders of the industry.”

Strong mentors

“I’ve sought out wisdom throughout my career and have been fortunate to have several great mentors, including my partners at Pontem—Jeff Bartlett and Skye Callantine. At Lazard, Robert Lynd helped me cut my teeth in upstream finance and build my toolset to evaluate businesses by seeing through the minutia to understand if they were truly creating value. At Citadel, Brian Kuzma and Jarrad Bourger helped develop my fundamental views on the oil and gas industry and the interplay of the business with the perpetually dynamic capital markets. My most influential mentor was my uncle, Chuck Griffith Jr., who encouraged me to be the best version of myself as a father, husband and businessman. He instilled in me the value of understanding what’s important to me and to work tirelessly to succeed in those endeavors.”