Meet Matthew Fleeger, CEO, President, and Director of Gulf Coast Western, LLC, as well as a renowned principal in the oil and gas industry in the United States today.
A seasoned and well-rounded businessman in several industries, Matthew Fleeger is listed in the International Who’s Who of Business Professionals, and is highly respected for his experience and expertise in various business sectors. These include medical waste management, as well as the tanning industry, in which he launched two highly successful businesses.
But Fleeger is best known as the corporate head of Gulf Coast Western and a beacon in the oil and gas industry, and is regarded highly for the resilience and solid growth that his company has exhibited under his leadership. Fleeger has led Gulf Coast Western to impressive expansion and growth during his tenure as President and CEO of this Texas-based oil and gas firm.
A Multi-talented Entrepreneur
As a businessman, Fleeger is characterized by his versatile range of corporate interests, as well as his stellar leadership model, which emphasizes resourcefulness, adaptability, and the ability to remain open-minded, as well as never losing sight of the value of all team members, and acknowledging each of their contributions. He is also known for partnering with winners in the industry in order to grow under the shade of those key partners and mentors.
Fleeger earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, and it was during his years of study there that he developed his passion and talent for business. Upon earning his degree in 1985, he entered the family business, which his father had founded in 1970, and spent eight years honing his skills and knowledge in the oil industry at Gulf Coast Western. He then spent three years as Vice President at Kinlaw Oil Company, another Texas-based oil firm.
During his early years in the oil and gas business, Fleeger gained key insights and experience that would eventually lead to his impressive leadership role at Gulf Coast Western, and his track record of successful investments and acquisitions. He also became an expert on corporate structuring, as well as joint ventures and mergers and acquisitions, a winning strategy for business expansion that has proven successful time and time again at Gulf Coast Western.
In the early 1990s, Fleeger began to branch out into other industries and start his own business ventures. In 1993 he founded MedSolutions, a medical transportation firm that provided transport, disposal, and proper handling of medical waste for medical facilities. MedSolutions expanded significantly under Fleeger’s leadership, and had become a leader in healthcare waste management in the Southwestern U.S. by 2007, when Stericycle, the national industry leader, purchased the company for the sum of $59 million.
Fleeger also saw rapid success in the tanning industry. In 1999 he founded Palm Beach Tan, Inc., a small local firm that began with six indoor tanning parlors in Palm Beach, then quickly experienced a major growth spurt, soon becoming the largest chain of indoor tanning parlors in the United States. Piggybacking on the success of Palm Beach Tan, Fleeger then co-founded Mystic Tan, another brilliant investment in the airbrush tanning product sector. Mystic Tan also experienced rapid growth and grew into the largest and most popular spray-on tanning booth franchise in the world. The combined revenue of these two holdings came close to $100 Million.
The Expansion of Gulf Coast Western
Upon his return to Gulf Coast Western, Fleeger took the reins of this family-owned business that his father had founded in 1970 and, serving as both President and CEO, began to implement a growth strategy focused on expansion through strategic acquisitions leading to new partnerships.
While Gulf Coast Western was founded with a more limited local focus, the company has now expanded to include active holdings, wells, activities, and operations in six states, primarily located in the Gulf Coast region. These states include Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Alabama.
In particular, Gulf Coast Western made two key acquisitions under Fleeger’s leadership that expanded the company’s footprint in Southwestern Louisiana when the company entered into a mutually profitable partnership with Orbit Gulf Coast Exploration, following Gulf Coast Western’s acquisition of a vast majority of assets pertaining to Orbit Energy Partners, a firm headquartered in Lafayette, Louisiana.
These two partnerships with Orbit Gulf Coast Exploration and Orbit Energy Partners are examples of the way that, under Fleeger’s leadership, Gulf Coast Western has vastly expanded its presence and operations in Louisiana. These strategic partnerships have opened up hundreds of opportunities for development of new resources for Gulf Coast Western in the nearly 1,000 square miles that comprise the area of mutual interest in Louisiana’s Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Evangeline and St. Landry Parishes.
Gulf Coast Western, LLC has also expanded its base as the Managing Venture of Joint Ventures, known also as Oil and Gas General Partnerships. This limited partnership brings together top industry talent and resources for the purpose of advancing exploration, development, and acquisitions of domestic oil and gas reserves primarily located in the U.S. Gulf Coast region. The partnership focuses on properties, partnerships, and acquisitions that show growth potential thanks to well-developed structures, as well as demonstrating both geological and geophysical advantages.
While Gulf Coast Western’s primary exploration and lease acquisition activities are centered in Gulf Coast regions that are rich in oil and gas deposits, and where the potential for developing thousands of acres exists in the near future, the company is also actively studying opportunities for expansion into other areas of the U.S.
Corporate Strategy and Philosophy
Gulf Coast Western invests in opportunities that promise substantial return on investment with minimal risk for partners and investors. The company attributes its success to “relationships built on mutual trust and respect, earned through operating with honesty and integrity,” and this approach has helped the company maintain an impeccable reputation. The company also maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
“My strategy was simple,” explains Fleeger. “I would grow my business around honesty, integrity and creativity and I expect the people around to be the same way. I believe that my clients appreciate the first two parts the most, and the latter is exciting and fresh for everyone involved. I comprise different types of joint ventures with diversification, transparency, and always having the integrity to put my money in it as well. I believe in the products that I make available, and the only way you will continue to grow is [through] these three principals.”
Gulf Coast Western now has partnerships that include over 1,000 accredited businesses across the United States, over 70 percent of which are participants in one or more Joint Ventures project sponsored by Gulf Coast Western. Gulf Coast Western takes great pride in adhering to a model inspired in its guiding principles, rooted in ethics and professional integrity.
Riding Rough Waters and Fixing Corporate Mistakes
The joy of an entrepreneurial career always consists in acknowledging that every business model can be continuously improved upon, and a great entrepreneur must consistently face and tweak problems to regularly improve company operations and, in the end, produce a better bottom line that benefits all shareholders. This approach means that in order to succeed in business, one must learn from and capitalize on every mistake.
Fleeger admits to having made some mistakes at the beginning of his tenure at Gulf Coast Western. “I was focused on expansion in the beginning, and this led me to make an asset acquisition that only seemed good on the surface,” he recounts.
But his handling of the mistake demonstrated his leadership capabilities and his ability to think on his feet. “When I suspected it was not as I perceived it, I shut it down and cut my losses,” he explains. “I continued to do my due diligence, which allowed me to unravel it before it caused any more damage to my company.” It is this type of optimistic thinking coupled with strategic action that keeps companies afloat when things are not necessarily sailing smoothly.
Under Fleeger’s leadership, Gulf Coast Western has remained a solid business that has enjoyed consistent and successful growth and expansion over the years even though, like all companies in the oil and gas industries, the company was hit hard during the recent U.S. oil recession that peaked in 2008. During this period, Gulf Coast Western faced many major obstacles and challenges, and was forced to implement innovative solutions, many of which have had a lasting impact on corporate operations.
Fleeger was successful at navigating his firm to a safe shore during the economic tempest that the recession brought, thanks to his adept leadership skills, and especially thanks to his willingness to maintain a versatile and flexible approach to problem solving. Fleeger credits his ability to re-imagine possible outcomes, and his willingness to explore and implement new solutions, for successfully leading the company through that difficult period.
“Having a positive attitude in the face of adversity. I believe this is a contagious mindset for everyone, and is required in every successful leader. You have to constantly portray this quality or else, negative morale and despair will creep into your business quickly.”
The difficult economic environment created by the recession forced Fleeger to evaluate and re-imagine his organizational model, through new challenges that led to the development and implementation of new solutions that reduced corporate overhead while supporting key personnel and operational functions and activities.
He is also quick to give his team their due credit for their crucial contributions to the success of the company, noting that the entire team remained open to trying out creative and innovative solutions. He values effective team building as a way to solidify a unified corporate culture of valuable team players, and shares his vision of growth and expansion with his team members.
“I openly explained to my team how committed I was to the future,” he recalls. “The difficulties at that time were really posturing us for some exciting days to come,” he recalls, with regards to the brainstorming efforts of his expert team. “No creative option was off limits.”
Fleeger also stresses the fact that Gulf Coast Western maintains an optimistic, forward-thinking, and equitable corporate culture that ensures satisfaction and loyalty among staff, and boosts company morale by making certain that the company’s staff members, as well as partners and investors, feel valued for their contributions.
But life cannot be all work, and Fleeger also understands the value of a healthy life-work balance. He is committed to making the most of his personal family life, and is also involved in philanthropic projects that express his support for specific causes and social values. “My wife gave me a gift one year, and I truly live by it now,” shares Fleeger. “It was a sign that says ‘Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.’ I believe Dolly Parton made the expression famous.”
To his credit, Fleeger hasn’t forgotten to make a life – one that grants him the satisfaction of contributing to the people and causes that he values most. Most notably, Fleeger cares about children. He cares about children’s mental, physical, and emotional well being, as well as children’s education. And he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is on these issues.
One recipient of Fleeger’s philanthropic contributions is the Sadie Keller Foundation: a Texas-based nonprofit organization founded by Sadie Keller, a spunky little girl who also happens to be a leukemia survivor and activist for childhood cancer research. The mission of the Sadie Keller Foundation is to provide support and resources for children and their families while in treatment for childhood cancer. The organization also lobbies for legislation that will increase funding for research on pediatric cancers, given the tragic fact that childhood cancer research is alarmingly underfunded.
Among the many projects sponsored by the Sadie Keller Foundation to provide support and care for families of children battling childhood cancer is an initiative called Sadie’s Sleigh. This fundraising initiative takes place yearly around the Christmas holiday in the form of a toy drive that brings toys to children hospitalized for childhood cancer treatments.
In 2018, Fleeger hosted the Sadie’s Sleigh toy drive, which proved to be a success, raising $14,000 in donations, in addition to a robust contribution of $25,000 made by Fleeger to the Sadie Keller Foundation earlier in the year. Fleeger is proud to be among the Sadie Keller Foundation’s corporate contributors, knowing that these valuable contributions of money, time, and corporate contacts help keep the Foundation running and contribute to its mission of helping children with pediatric cancers and their families get through a very difficult period in their lives.
Fleeger’s commitment to supporting organizations focused on children is reflected also in his corporate support of the renowned Parish Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas. This highly acclaimed STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) studies facility has recently appeared in the news for its novel teaching model and success at engaging children in traditionally difficult subjects by means of creative hands-on education.
The Parish School provides a unique educational model of applied STEM education by means of educational “maker spaces” in which the curriculum fuses a traditional classroom learning style with more experimental opportunities for kids to apply classroom knowledge directly to real-life problems, and discover by means of hands-on experimentation.
The Future of Gulf Coast Western and the Oil Industry
When questioned about conditions affecting the future of the oil and gas industry, as well as current trends, Fleeger maintains his optimistic stance.
“I have a positive outlook, but remain cautiously optimistic,” he declares. Fleeger is confident that his business is on a steady and successful course, and that Gulf Coast Wester will be able to “ride the oil price roller coaster successfully.”
Fleeger also goes on to mention that today’s economic environment allows for the development of two significant opportunities at Gulf Coast Western: The opportunity for new acquisitions in low-risk profile projects at reasonable costs, as well as the possibility of entering into strategic partnerships with bigger companies with sufficient capital to weather the turbulence that may face the industry in the coming years.
Currently Fleeger is optimistic about Gulf Coast Western’s present position and this year’s plans to support both stability and growth. Fleeger believes the company’s trading range will continue “Between $55-$75 for WTI, based off the fundamental economics right now, and GCW is thriving with our new approach to this climate.”
As for trends in the general oil and gas industry, Fleeger is excited by “The innovation and American ingenuity taking place in our oil industry. The advancements in technology have created opportunities and efficiencies that weren’t there even five years ago.” He’s optimistic about the industry’s ability to adapt to changing times and an evolving landscape. He also has faith in his own company’s ability to grow and expand through those changes.
“I visualize a positive outcome first, then create a path to obtaining it,” he states. With this approach to everything in life, it’s no wonder Fleeger has succeeded at so many endeavors.