Windows on the World of Raymond Plank
Founder, Apache Corp

Vol. 2017 No.  3

I. A Tale of Two Companies and Forty-Eight More For Good Measure


Upon returning home to Minnesota from WWII and graduation from Yale in 1946, it was time to start a small business and seek to grow it.  Classmate Brooks Fields had returned to Yale having already graduated.  We started our business in bookkeeping and tax work plus handling requisite permits and licenses for our customers which grew rapidly in numbers.  Our employee count grew to nineteen and our company name was changed to Plank & Somekawa.  After WWII the federal income tax rate for the top tax bracket soared to ninety-one percent; the business of oil, a strategic material, deemed by the U.S. government and Dwight Eisenhower a critical defense resource.    


This call for the high tax bracket beckoned Apache Corp. to initiate drilling programs as differentiated from one prospect at a time which was the common practice.  The program was a much preferred novelty.  President Ronald Reagan reduction of the highest tax bracket simply meant that our drilling program business would perish which is why I contacted successful entrepreneurs of forty-eight small businesses which were growing so rapidly that the banks did not keep pace with their growth.  Apache substituted its shares and cash borrowings to enable entrepreneurs better able to handle their growth.  At one point these companies collectively employed five thousand people and enabled us to earn after taxes $350,000,000 which catapulted Apache from a very small independent to a much larger and more successful business. 


The company I founded in 1954 with $250,000 by 2007, when my retirement was around the corner at age eighty-six, Apache’s share bell rang at $147. 


II. A Dedicated Board of Directors Adds Value


Our board of Directors had been of outstanding value throughout the years.  The first to whom I shall refer is Mary Ralph Lowe, whose father, a very successful oil operator, died at her age seventeen leaving her to run the business.  Her added value to Apache lead to our successful operations overseas in Egypt, where our earning eventually exceeded $100,000,000 after taxes per year.


Howard Alkire, Chairman of our executive committee made an outstanding contribution as did Dr. Randy Ferlic with a remarkable brain and memory.  

Our next named Apache Director and friend Eugene Fiedorek from Dallas, a former petroleum engineer with Shell, referred us to Western Mining Company which acquired a number of our shares and also enabled us to grow very profitably in Australia. The relationship became and remains close even in our joint retirement.


Malcolm “Bud” Mackay, who flew Lindberg around in the Pacific had become a Lieutenant Colonel who believed that commercial aviation could be very successful and move from New Jersey and became a nearby neighbor in Minneapolis where Northwest Airlines had its headquarters and became a very successful well funded airline.  Bud Mackay came to visit me in my office about every ten days where his knowledge, quiet questioning and breadth of experience contributed immensely.


Another director, Stan Hathaway, upon his retirement as Governor of Wyoming, served as chairman of our audit committee with superior judgment and perhaps the most outstanding senior person I’ve known in my now home state over many years. 


John Kocur with his lovely wife, Shirley, came to Apache from the east in 1969, serving as General Counsel and my closest corporate confident who also became a director of Apache Corp, was superior.


III.  Military Position in 2017


I was very pleased to see Donald Trump win the nomination and become the forty-fifth president of the United States, in fact, via the R.N.C. I contributed $400,000 to his campaign.  As the forty-fifth president sent a donation letter requesting $45, I’m sending $50 believing that many of his appointments have been superior.  With on going attacks on the Clintons, and former president Obama (whom I believe should give up his airplane and helicopter and guide us into very unfortunate excursions in Iran and Afganistan – sickening and overreaching on the part of our former Commander in Chief), in the future, the House and Senate rather than leave the action to the President of the U.S. as Commander in Chief should vote up or down on a declaration of war. 


In WWII while Hitler’s Nazis lost 5 ½ million German lives, Russia with a current population of one hundred forty-three million, lost nine million and wound up a very poor country having contributed immensely to the allied victory.  Presently President Trump is requesting an increase in our military budget of ten percent which I believe to be a grievous mistake; I would greatly prefer to see him reduce our so-called defense budget by ten percent rather than increase it.  The idea occurs to me that rather than go to the C.I.A. he might consider going to Special Forces as a separate branch of our military for the implicit purpose of knocking out ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban making sure that he does not brag about the named people that Special Forces might destroy who by the way, should not, as was done in England, have the wives of Special Forces stationed with their husbands. 


I’ve shown these numbers recently:


U.S. population                                                             325 million

Russia’s population                                                     143 million

U.S. military budget                                                    $563.9 billion

Russia’s                                                                          $53.2 billion


Our military budget, as it stands, is double that of China’s and ten and a half times that of Russia, a very poor country.  Figures show that in 2015 the U.S. military spending was the equivalent of the next thirteen country’s military spending combined.   The U.S. has not declared war since WWII yet we have fought in tens of them the most obnoxious of which were Viet Nam and North Korea, in Viet Nam our military aid went largely to the black market as it has in a number of other countries including Iraq.


If you agree, I hope that you will write your congressman and members of the U.S. senate and express yourselves forcibly taking a chapter out of the book of President Donald J. Trump.