There used to be a TV show called To Tell the Truth where three contestants appeared before a panel of judges, all pretending to be the same person. In the end, the moderator would ask the contestants, "Will the real _____ please stand up?" to reveal the person's true identity. We can play a similar game with Ashland Oil:
1997 - Ashland signed definitive agreement with Marathon Oil to combine the two companies' refining, marketing and transportation assets. Ashland sold its domestic oil and gas properties for $566 million, and the company's two coal investments merged to form Arch Coal, Inc.
1998 - Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC began operation Jan. 1. Ashland owned 38 percent of this joint-venture company, the nation's sixth largest refiner.
1999 - Ashland's headquarters moved to Covington, Ky., as the company observed its 75th anniversary. Ashland formed two new divisions - Ashland Distribution Company and Ashland Specialty Chemical Company - from its largest wholly owned business, Ashland Chemical Company.
2004 - Ashland and Marathon Oil Corporation signed an agreement to transfer its 38-percent interest in Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC (MAP) to Marathon for approximately $3.0 billion.
2005 - Ashland Inc. (NYSE: ASH ) and Marathon Oil Corporation (NYSE: MRO ) on June 30 completed an agreement under which Ashland transferred its 38-percent interest in Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC ( MAP ) and two other businesses to Marathon. The two other businesses were Ashland's maleic anhydride business and 60 Valvoline Instant Oil Change (VIOC) centers in Michigan and northwest Ohio, which were valued at $94 million. After 81 years in the petroleum refining and marketing industry, Ashland Inc. became a two-sector company with operations in the chemicals and transportation construction industries.
So, is Ashland or Marathon responsible for the radioactive mess in the Martha Oil Field? I'm sure the lawyers know who is legally responsible, however, if a good corporate citizen decided to clean up the mess tomorrow, who would it be? Ashland, Marathon or someone else? Will the real Ashland Oil please stand up?