RADNOR, Pa., Nov. 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Michael G. O'Neill, Founder and CEO of Preferred Sands, has been named the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year ® 2012 Energy, Cleantech and Natural Resources Category Award winner. The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award is the country's most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The award encourages entrepreneurial activity and recognizes leaders and visionaries who demonstrate innovation, financial success and personal commitment as they create and build world-class businesses.
O'Neill's business strategy – combined with his team's collective core competencies and expertise in engineering, finance and environmental compliance – catapulted Preferred Sands first to market with innovative and environmentally sensitive clean fracturing sand. He was honored at the Entrepreneur Of The Year gala, the culminating event of the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum ® in Palm Springs, Calif. The Forum is the nation's premier gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies. Awards were given in nine additional categories. All Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award winners were selected by an independent panel of judges from 244 regional Award recipients.
"In an industry that is often scrutinized over environmental issues, O'Neill and his team have found a way to enter as market innovators, bringing many new developments into the supply of sands into this industry that is so important for our energy needs," said Bryan Pearce, Americas Director, Entrepreneur Of The Year, Ernst & Young LLP. "O'Neill's leadership ability, as well as the investment he's made in his people and community, has allowed him to create a highly efficient and motivated team that is poised for continued future growth."
From banking to real estate to start-upBefore becoming a mining entrepreneur, O'Neill was both a Philadelphia banker and a redevelopment-focused real estate pioneer. In 1984, he began his career with First Pennsylvania Bank as a lender to aggregate and mining companies. Little did O'Neill know just how impactful the mining network and skill set he developed at the bank would be just a decade later. After leaving the bank, he leveraged his ever growing business acumen to start his own company, O'Neill Properties, with his brother Bryan, which helped spawn the birth of Preferred Real Estate Investments in 1992. The company bought old industrial buildings and repurposed them into high-end corporate office buildings. O'Neill became a transformational force in renovating industrial properties, and from 1992 until 2005, he grew Preferred Real Estate Investments into a market leader in adaptive reusable real estate. However, O'Neill, just like many great entrepreneurs, was already looking around the corner and anticipating the next hurdle. He recognized the cyclical and macroeconomic risk of the real estate industry and the high potential for a significant downturn. In 2005, during the peak of the real estate boom, he capitalized on the inflated market and divested the majority of the company's portfolio. O'Neill and his management team then found themselves with capital and a clean canvas to paint the next company's future.