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Saturday, April 10, 2021

XTO to move most employees, operations to Houston

In a move that will impact the local energy business and upend the downtown real estate market, Exxon Mobil Corp. said Friday it will relocate about 1,600 jobs in its Fort Wort-based XTO Energy division to the Houston area over the next three years.

Irving-based Exxon Mobil on Friday told employees at its Fort Worth operations of its plans. The company said it would move 1,200 employees to the a Houston area campus in 2018 and another 400 in 2020, according to a company spokeswoman.

“We greatly appreciate our partnership with the community in Fort Worth, but the business has invested in that campus in Houston and we believe there will be value in being able to collaborate with the other business lines and those on the campus there,” the spokeswoman said.

Mayor Betsy Price described the plan as a “blow” to the city.

“XTO has been a great corporate partner and a true success story for Fort Worth,” she said in a statement. “This is a blow to our community and, while we will certainly move forward and recover, I am sorry for the employees and their families.”

XTO will maintain about 350 employees assigned to XTO’s Central Division and Fort Worth District and some midstream operations employees in the field to support its Barnett Shale operations, the spokeswoman said. 

Exxon Mobil officials said the company plans to sell six of the seven buildings it owns in Fort Worth.

According to CoStar, Fort Worth’s central business district had a 90.1 percent office occupancy rate in the fourth quarter of 2016, similar to the rate across the U.S., but well above Dallas’ 77.1 percent. 

XTO, originally Cross Timbers Oil Co., was founded by Bob Simpson, Steve Palko and Jon Brumley. The company, in particular Simpson, have received praise for buying and rehabilitating a number of downtown office buildings that had fallen into disrepair. XTO’s headquarters building is the historic W.T. Waggoner building at 810 Houston St. The 20-story structure was designed by Sanguinet & Staats and opened in 1920.

The company became one of the premier operators in the Barnett Shale in the early 2000s. That expertise began to attract the attention of the oil and gas majors and, in a deal announced in 2009, Exxon Mobil purchased XTO for $36 billion.

But fears of a move from Fort Worth have been expressed by area business leaders ever since the acquisition, even though XTO has won praise from Exxon Mobil officials and the industry for its expertise in shale.

“XTO Energy, a home-grown legacy company, has been an outstanding industry leader, a generous community supporter and excellent steward of historic buildings in downtown Fort Worth for decades. It’s hard to hear the announcement of their move,” said Bill Thornton, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce in a statement.

“In time, we expect to fill downtown office space, but it will be difficult to replace the civic partnership we have enjoyed with XTO and its employees.

“Fortunately, Fort Worth’s diversified economy is prepared to absorb industry changes like this. And XTO’s painstakingly refurbished buildings, plus a new parking garage, leave us well-positioned to market the space to expanding and relocating companies,” he said.

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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