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Pioneer of Environmental Sustainability in the Hydraulic Fracturing Sand Industry: Michael G. O'Neill, Founder and CEO of Preferred Sands, Named Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2012 Energy, Cleantech and Natural Resources Category Award w

O'Neill honored for leadership and innovation in sustainable hydraulic fracturing methods

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-up

Before 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.

In December 2007, during the onset of what has become one of the largest recessions in our country's history, O'Neill led his team to create Preferred Sands, an owner-operated frac sand and proppant company, providing the widest array of proppants to the oil and gas industry.

O'Neill's insight and vision has led Preferred Sands to dramatically increase its revenue in just over three years.

Community philanthropist

O'Neill believes that every business is a people business. His people philosophy is hire good people, invest in them and empower them. As an avid supporter of the Philadelphia community, he is active in education-focused charitable organizations, and the company matches employee charitable donations dollar-for-dollar.

Preferred Sands' national footprint and strategically developed reserves have given the company a competitive advantage over its rivals, and O'Neill continues to position the company for innovative growth.

Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Energy, Cleantech and Natural Resources Category finalists

In addition to O'Neill, the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year Energy, Cleantech and Natural Resources finalists were: Lynn Jurich, President & Co-founder, and Edward Fenster, CEO and Co-founder, Sunrun, based in San Francisco, Calif., the nation's leading solar power company; Sidney Hinton, CEO, PowerSecure International, Inc., based in Wake Forest, N.C., providers of energy technologies and services to electric utilities and their large industrial, commercial, institutional and municipal customers; and Cindy Taylor, President and CEO, Oil States International, Inc., based in Houston, Texas, designer, manufacturer, distributer and servicer of highly engineered products for sub-sea pipelines and offshore production platforms.

National Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2012 Overall Award winner

Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder of Chobani, was named the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2012 Overall Award winner.

Video and photos

To view video clips of all of the Entrepreneur Of The Year winners, please visit Photos of the winners are also available by request.


Founded and produced by Ernst & Young LLP, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards are nationally sponsored in the United States by SAP America and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

About Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur Of The Year

Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur Of The Year is the world's most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 140 cities in 50 countries.

About Ernst & Young LLP's Strategic Growth Markets practice

Ernst & Young LLP's Strategic Growth Markets (SGM) practice guides leading high-growth companies. Our multidisciplinary team of elite professionals provides perspective and advice to help our clients accelerate market leadership. SGM delivers assurance, tax, transactions and advisory services to thousands of companies spanning all industries. Ernst & Young is the undisputed leader in taking companies public, advising key government agencies on the issues impacting high-growth companies and convening the experts who shape the business climate. For more information, please visit us at, or follow news on Twitter at EY_Growth.

About Ernst & Young

Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Worldwide, our 167,000 people are united by our shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality. We make a difference by helping our people, our clients and our wider communities achieve their potential.

For more information, please visit

This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young LLP, a client-serving member firm of Ernst Young Global Limited operating in the US.



SOURCE Ernst & Young

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