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Posted: July 01, 2012

Minority Businessperson of the Year finalists 2012

Tim Marquez

Venoco Inc.


Tim Marquez doesn’t consider himself a risk-taker, but the Venoco Inc. chairman and CEO hasn’t shied away from challenges – and potential failure – since graduating from Colorado School of Mines in 1980.

After 12 years as a petroleum engineer and manager for Unocal Corp., Marquez left in 1992 to launch his own oil and gas firm with $3,000 and a Visa card. He and a partner cobbled together $110,000 – enough to buy an underperforming oilfield in California that was producing revenues of about $10,000 per month. According to Forbes magazine, they used their engineering expertise to make some adjustments and increase production, and the field was soon generating $100,000 a day, giving them the capital to invest in other fields.

But Marquez, 54, says, "I don’t look at myself as a risk-taker. When I was young, I was a very cautious person. I didn’t take chances on anything. It was easier to not take a chance because then you’re not going to fail. But then at some point, sometime around my college years, I did start kind of putting myself out there and set myself up for potential failures, not being afraid of failures. And I found out, ‘Well, that feels pretty good.’ Even if you do fail, at least you can say, ‘Well, I tried.’"

Along the way at Venoco, Marquez endured his own firing as CEO amid a dispute with then-partner Enron over the company’s direction in 2002. He regained control in 2004 when he and his management team bought out Venoco’s partners, and he took the company public in 2006.

Now Marquez, who already owns 50.3 percent of the company, is seeking to take Venoco private because he doesn’t believe investors are fairly valuing the company. Venoco shareholders voted on June 5 to approve the sale of the remaining shares for $12.50 a share.

Marquez graduated from Denver’s Abraham Lincoln High School and is the son of a high school biology teacher and high school English teacher. In 2006, he and his wife, Bernadette, donated $50 million to help launch the Denver Scholarship Foundation, giving DPS graduates need-based financial assistance.

"It’s a major fundraising effort because $50 million was a good start, but that’s only a portion of what it takes," he says. "It takes about $9 million a year to fulfill our obligation there, so that continues to be a big focus for myself.

"We just awarded scholarships to the biggest class ever," he says. "About 900 more students will be going to college this year, and I think that will put our total of kids in college at about 3,600 kids. It’s helped drive change in the DPS because now kids have a reason to graduate from high school."

– Mike Taylor

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