Aurora executive director Graham Dowland and executive chairman Jon Stewart. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian.
Aurora executive director Graham Dowland and executive chairman Jon Stewart. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian.

Aurora Oil & Gas executive chairman Jon Stewart remembers talking to investors in New York about his Perth company's land grab in the Eagle Ford shale in the US State of Texas.

"And they said to us 'how on earth did you guys manage to do that', and they looked at our balance sheet and they saw the land (acquisition) costs were tiny," Mr Stewart recalled yesterday.

Mr Stewart cannot remember the date of the New York anecdote but it was before the explosion of the so-called US shale boom, which had companies from ExxonMobil to BHP Billiton and down to a splattering of ASX-listed hopefuls rushing to secure acreage above America's hydrocarbon-rich shales.

Aurora's first-mover, below-the-radar land grab neatly describes its rise from the listed ashes of Tony Barlow's tuxedo hire business nine years ago into an S&P-ASX 100 stock that will deliver its 2800 shareholders a $1.87 billion cash windfall.

Tomorrow at Aurora auditor BDO's Subiaco office, shareholders will be asked to approve Baytex Energy's takeover of their company for $4.20 a share.

The Canadian suitor bumped its bid price by 10¢ last week to ensure support from biggest investors Harbour Advisors and Stirling Global Value Fund.

Aurora shares closed at $4.17 yesterday.

Mr Stewart says he expects the shareholder vote, the last major hurdle, to support the takeover.

It will then trigger a massive cash payout - up to an estimated $500 million - to the legion of WA retail investors who backed Mr Stewart and co-founder Graham Dowland since they first chartered Aurora's course in 2005.

Mr Stewart, who is set for an $85 million pay day, says it is satisfying long-term supporters and Aurora management are exiting together.

"We have had strong support from a lot of people, we ha come together, developed it together and now sold out together," he said. "We have always been about value for all our shareholders, it's not necessarily about building the company and selling it, or building the company to make it a bigger company. If (the Baytex) bid hadn't happened we would have easily gone on with (growing Aurora)."

The West Australian

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