Oil: Vade, Mecom

The complicated and expensive requirements of today's oil exploration—basically, more distant searches and deeper drilling with more sophisticated equipment—have shut out most of the old breed of independent operators. A few independents, however, are still rich and ready enough for global competition with the major companies—and one of the richest and readiest is a stocky, straightforward Texan named John Whitfield Mecom. At 53, Mecom has amassed assets of between $400 million and $500 million, reaped largely from 30 years of roaming the world in search of oil. Last week, on yet...

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