The most luxurious touch in Targe's conference room is a large-screen television monitor, but the most characteristic touch may be an equally large black-and-white photo of Johnny Cash at his famous (or infamous) Folsom Prison concert, holding his guitar in one hand, making a rude gesture for the warden with the other.
Not that the principals of Targe come across as rude. But when the CEO wears a ponytail, jeans and cowboy boots, that signals a culture that regards convention with insouciance.
A strapping 6-foot-4-inch man with a quick smile and a hearty laugh, Bill Spence lacks both the demeanor or the accoutrements of the imperial CEO -- indeed, he shares a small, cluttered office with Mr. Miller, with windows that face an alley. Other executives share similarly modest offices on the house's upper floors.
The executive team that Mr. Spence assembled when forming Targe tempts one to construct a joke: "A bomber pilot, a linebacker and an impresario meet in a bar ..."
The bomber pilot was Mr. Miller, who flew B-52s from 1981 to 1988 for the U.S. Air Force, then entered the world of private equity, helping to manage companies engaged in leveraged buyouts.
The linebacker was Hall of Famer Jack Ham, who earned four Super Bowl rings during his 1971 to 1982 tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers and now serves as senior vice president. The impresario was Rich Engler, as in DiCesare-Engler, the booking agency that dominated Pittsburgh's concert scene for two decades. He is a vice president.
The three did not meet in a bar (at least not initially), but they all wound up with a connection to Mr. Spence. Mr. Miller was introduced to him in 2003 by Dan Drawbaugh, chief information officer at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a longtime friend of both men who felt that they would complement each other.
Mr. Ham entered the coal business as a broker while he was still playing with the Steelers -- "Most players in my generation also had other jobs," he said. He went into the coal business full time in 1982, and became friends with Mr. Spence along the way.
And Mr. Engler became friends with Mr. Spence in 1998 after their wives introduced them to each other. When he left Clear Channel Communications in 2004 -- "I didn't like the way the entertainment industry was going" -- he was quick to accept an offer from Mr. Spence to get into the energy business. "He's the best salesman you could ever hope to find," Mr. Spence says of Mr. Engler.
It wasn't until November 2005 that Targe was formed as a legal entity, its name taken from an ancient piece of Scottish weaponry, a shield with a spike protruding from its center.
At that same time, Mr. Spence and Mr. Miller made the decision to conduct a round of equity financing. Based on Mr. Miller's experience in the world of private equity, they compiled a list of potential investors, including Carlyle/Riverstone. "We decided that if we were going to do this, we were going to do it big," Mr. Spence said.
They met with Carlyle/Riverstone representatives in January 2006.
"We loved the meeting, but we didn't think anything would come out of it," Mr. Miller said, because Carlyle typically funds only between two and four companies a year, out of up to 80 that come under review, and because the funding process is typically slow.
To their surprise, the investors asked for a second meeting scarcely three months later, on April 24. At that meeting, the parties reached basic agreement on terms for investment, and on June 1, they closed the deal.
"In private equity terms, that's lightning speed," Mr. Miller said.
Moving forward, the company that now drills primarily for others hopes to be more of a producer, drilling on its own lands. To that end, Targe has acquired 140,000 acres in Montana for oil and gas drilling, and hopes to drill its first well in April.
A second area of growth that the company wants to venture into is building rigs. Buying them, as they now do at a cost of $2 million to $4 million each, involves a 14- to 16-month delay while the rigs are built. Mr. Spence and Mr. Miller would like for Targe to begin building rigs next year, based on the company's own patented design, and creating in the process 100 to 200 additional jobs.
And, not to put too fine a point on it, they hope to earn a second round of financing from their backers.
"We're their beachhead in Pennsylvania," Mr. Miller said.