"Energy Capital of the World, the Bayou City, Space City,… the nation’s fourth largest city goes by many nicknames and helping to raise Houston and Texas’ influence on the global stage is Linden Strategies, a Houston based power brokering firm with strategic lobbying activities spread across the United States and in far flung places across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. In this Spotlight on Local Businesses, we are going to see how Linden Strategies works to ensure Houston remains a leader in the energy sector by working with foreign companies and governments in a variety of ways.
In an office in West-Houston near the Galleria, there is an international lobbying and energy consulting firm called Linden Strategies. Linden Strategies has helped shape numerous international and domestic events over the last two decades. Houstonian Stephen Payne leads Linden Strategies as its President and has been involved in political and energy projects in the United States in addition to being involved in diplomatic affairs with European countries as well as international business and corporate negotiations within the Middle East and Asia.
Since childhood when President Ford came to deliver a speech, Stephen made sure he could sit as close as possible by arriving much earlier than everyone else. That speech captivated Stephen and he knew right then and there he wanted to be part of helping to solve America’s issues and to help American businesses grow. From there Stephen continued his studies at Stephen F. Austin and involved himself in every possible aspect of politics and business, both in his student and academic life as a budding young professional.
Following school Stephen quickly immersed himself in political campaigns and organizations such as the Republic National Convention and went on to help former President George W. Bush, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Senator Bob Dole with his presidential campaign, proving to be a key member with all three.
Stephen went on to work with several other politicians in numerous key positions and supporting activities before opening his own practice which provided consulting services to United Space Alliance, a former Rockwell Collins-Lockheed Martin venture which provided mission ready launch assembly services to NASA.
Today Linden Strategies works with several foreign governments and multinational corporations along with major energy sector companies such as the government of Pakistan, NATO and Calik Enerji, with the latter developing a major transnational power generation and transmission line High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) project called the TAPP-500 which will help the region move away from coal dependance and involves working with Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, a complex diplomatic and corporate undertaking. In fact, Linden Strategies is also involved in a project that will see an LNG terminal open in Pakistan which will be supplied with U.S. liquified natural gas, creating U.S. jobs and contributing to the GDP of Texas and the United States.
Payne has worked with Pakistan during the Musharraf Administration, orchestrating the purchase and delivery of billions of dollars in military equipment to Pakistan. Recently in 2020, Payne continued his work with Pakistan since being retained by the Imran Khan Administration. Over the past year, Linden has assisted in facilitating meetings between members of the United States government and Pakistani officials as well as working with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Payne has also been a strong advocate for transitioning Pakistan from a coal-centric country to have more of a focus on alternative sources for clean energy and transition fuels such as natural gas and High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) lines.
Stephen is the vice-chairman of the Qilak LNG venture which is working with Exxon Mobil to liquify their natural gas from the north slope of Prudhoe Bay where Exxon has oil well leases and transport the LNG to Asian markets, once again helping to generate jobs in America and contribute to the nation’s GDP. The knock-on effect is that Linden Strategies is becoming well known far outside of the United States and has become a “go-to” consultant when you need to get things done.
Payne’s firm, Linden Strategies ( Previously Worldwide Strategic Partners), is comprised of a relatively small, but effective, central team. When asking Logan Somera, Projects Director at Linden, about the key behind the operational efficacy of the firm, he said, ”Linden covers such a wide variety of projects that also involve several sovereign governments and their appropriate agencies, as well as subsidiaries of those agencies, so it is important that we keep everything organized in a way that ensures nothing falls through the cracks.”
Like most other companies, 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic saw Linden Strategies curtail their travel and face-to-face meetings with national leaders and corporate executives, but that didn’t slow down the firm. Having only taken one trip during 2020, Stephen focused his efforts in helping clients leverage their assets to place them in leading positions in 2021 as the world seems to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Legislative Assistant for then-Senator Joe Biden and now chief legal counsel of Linden Strategies, Brian Ettinger was asked how he views Linden and said, “I have been a part of this firm since the beginning, and I am proud of the work we have done. Especially, our work in Pakistan both during the Musharraf Presidency, as well as in our current role working with the Khan Prime Minister ship.”
Big Movers? Yes, Stephen has successfully negotiated over 27 million tonnes per annum of LNG sales and shepherded several large LNG projects to completion in the United States. His knowledge of both geopolitical affairs and the business of generating revenue and making deals in the energy sector has been gained through hard work, loyalty, and an obsession with perfection in all of these projects say those who know him best.
We caught up with Sarah Heyman from the State Department’s Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources in 2016-2017, who recalls, “We often had partner governments who were seeking specialized help and Mr. Payne’s name often came up as a solutions orientated person you can count on… I know my boss once told me to arrange his contact info to be given to a trade group."
To go over the top, Stephen was appointed Honorary Consul for Latvia in Texas in 1999. While in this role, Stephen was key in facilitating Latvia achieving NATO membership as well as assisting in their hosting the 2006 NATO summit in Latvia. Because of these accomplishments and many other tireless efforts, Latvia awarded Stephen its highest state award, the Order of the Three Stars.
In a quote from Latvian President Vike-Freiberga on Stephen Payne, she said , “Let me express again my deep gratitude for your considerable contribution to the strengthening of the strong and vibrant ties between our nations and people…”
In the other instance mentioned by Payne, his work in Libya, Payne began working with Libya in 2007 where he helped organize several interactions between the Gaddafi regime and key US officials. In 2011, the Arab Spring took place where rebellions began in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi. Payne and Ettinger went to Tripoli in an attempt to get Gaddafi to step down voluntarily. While Gaddafi ultimately did not stepdown, Payne and his team were successfully able to facilitate the release of Journalists taken by the regime, including renown journalist James Foley.
After the fall of the Gaddafi regime, Libya was plunged into civil war. Payne decided to represent General Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA) who had previously rid the country of Al Qaeda. In 2019, Payne organized a call between General Haftar and then-President Trump and began helping to resolve the Libyan civil war.
From energy projects to sovereign country representation, to presidential campaigns, Stephen Payne has played a significant role in influencing the trajectory of many major world events and projects.
“We have had a great run these past twenty years, but the plenty more is coming.”
Linden Strategies is one to keep an eye on, the impact on Houston and Texas and the United States in political influence and in real world energy jobs has positively impacted many and they are poised to gain a leading position in helping governments and businesses navigate the tricky and often confusing waters of international trade and diplomacy. Houston can be proud of having Linden Strategies in its back yard."
Contributing writer Giovanna Flores provided some facts and details to this article.