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Over the past 22 years as head of Paramount Resources, Clay Riddell has seen a lot of oil and gas companies come and go.

Mr. Riddell, Calgary-based Paramount's controlling shareholder, has had the luxury of not having to fret about getting a phone call that oil barons at widely held companies dread -- the first call from a hostile bidder.

Nevertheless, Dallas-based Hunt Oil's unwelcome bid for Berkley Petroleum hits a bit too close to home.

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Mr. Riddell, you see, is a Berkley director who owns more than five million Berkley shares or almost 5 per cent of the Calgary-based producer.

And one of Mr. Riddell's daughters, Sue, who is a top executive and senior geologist at Paramount, is married to Michael Rose, Berkley's president and chief executive officer.

As well, Paramount is one of Berkley's key partners in natural gas ventures in the Fort Liard area of the Northwest Territories and East Lost Hills in California, where production began this week.

It's understandable that Mr. Riddell, Paramount's chairman and chief executive officer, is personally offended by Hunt's latest cash bid of $1.08-billion or $10.50 a share for Berkley. That new offer, unveiled on the weekend, is 50 cents a share higher than Hunt's original bid launched on Dec. 27.

Mr. Riddell's stake in Berkley would be worth $52.8-million, based on the new offer. That may sound like hitting pay dirt, but it's a modest amount compared with his 48.5-per-cent stake in Paramount, which is valued at almost $450-million.

Other family members also hold shares in Paramount, which was founded by Mr. Riddell in late 1978.

Don't get Mr. Riddell wrong. He doesn't have greed in his eyes. He merely wants to help Berkley fetch fair value.

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There's a silver lining in Hunt's unsolicited offer: The Texas predator's bid came as a surprising boost to a Calgary charity.

How so? Mr. Riddell decided to donate 20,000 Berkley shares before Christmas. But as fate would have it, the trade got delayed until the end of December because of an administrative mix-up. It made a big difference, because Berkley shares surged to $11.25 on Dec. 27, up $2.55 a share from the previous close on Dec. 22.

"The donation was nothing special," said Mr. Riddell, an oil veteran who plays down his accomplishments and good deeds.

However, he's far from charitable when it comes to assessing Hunt's $10.50-a-share offer.

Mr. Riddell serves on Berkley's three-person special committee of independent directors, which hopes to help find a white knight before Hunt's offer expires Feb. 15.

Potential rival bidders have gone through Berkley's data room that details its financial and operating data. "We've been pretty encouraged with the exposure that the data room has got," Mr. Riddell said in an interview.

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Other family members watching the takeover battle unfold include his wife Vi, their son Jim, a senior Paramount executive and geologist, and another daughter, Lynne, Paramount's information systems co-ordinator. Vi, Sue and Jim Riddell sit on Paramount's board.

Sue Riddell met Mr. Rose in the mid-eighties, when they worked as geologists at Calgary-based Shell Canada. It was love at first well site. They got married in 1987. Ms. Riddell quit Shell and joined her dad at Paramount in the early nineties, while Mr. Rose left the company to help launch Berkley in 1993.

From humble beginnings, Berkley grew rapidly before hitting the wall last year. Don't worry about Mr. Rose eating hamburger instead of filet mignon, though. He holds more than 1.3 million Berkley shares worth at least $14-million.

Whatever the outcome of the Hunt-Berkley battle, Mr. Rose and the Riddells can reflect over dinner at one of three popular Calgary restaurants co-owned by Clay Riddell -- Wildwood, Bonterra and 4 Street Rose.

Then they could head to the Riddell family's sprawling ranch southwest of Calgary to swap more oil patch stories, or go with a diversionary topic such as Mr. Riddell's interest in breeding thoroughbred horses.

With large suitors buying so many mid-sized producers in recent years, Mr. Riddell hopes that exploration in Western Canada doesn't suffer because the new owners prefer to focus on existing fields and not take chances with the drill bit.

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"It's going to be a sad day for Canada if we only produce what we have on hand. Berkley has been a very active explorer, and there aren't many left."

As for Paramount, Mr. Riddell is pleased that he has the control block.

"It's pretty nice not having to worry about a Hunt coming along and giving me a call." bjang@globeandmail.ca

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