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Chesapeake' s new CEO shakes up executive management

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Chesapeake Energy' s new chief executive shook up the natural-gas giant' s top ranks, saying four senior executives would leave, including the longtime chief operating officer who served as interim CEO earlier this year.

Chief Executive Doug Lawler said in an e-mail to Chesapeake staff that the "restructuring will position Chesapeake to be more competitive and focused," thanking each of the departing executives.

The corporate reshuffling comes as Mr. Lawler forges a new strategy for the Oklahoma City company, which remains staffed with many lieutenants of his predecessor, Chesapeake co-founder Aubrey McClendon.

Among the executives leaving the company is Steve Dixon, a 22-year Chesapeake veteran who had served as its chief operating officer since 2006. Mr. Dixon was tapped as interim chief executive in April while the board searched for a successor to Mr. McClendon, who left under shareholder pressure and has started a new energy company.

Mr. Dixon returned to his operating role after the board hired Mr. Lawler, who joined the company in June from Anadarko Petroleum.

Also leaving are top executives in drilling and production, senior vice president Steve Miller and executive vice president Jeff Fisher, and the company' s head of human resources, Martha Burger.

Under Mr. McClendon, Chesapeake habitually spent more than the cash it brought in from its operations during a period of explosive growth.

The company' s aggressive acquisitions and drilling made it the country' s second-largest producer of natural gas by volume after Exxon Mobil Corp.

But a glut of gas sent prices tumbling to the lowest levels in a decade last year, eroding Chesapeake' s revenues and prompting it to sell assets in 2012 to raise more than $11 billion to pay for its operations.

Mr. Lawler has pledged to rein in the company' s spending and focus only on its most profitable assets.

Chesapeake posted $580 million in profit in the second-quarter, down 40% from a year earlier. But stripping out one-time effects like asset sales and after-tax charges, earnings per share rose to 51 cents from six cents in 2012.

Oil production increased 44% from a year ago and 12% from the previous quarter. The gap between Chesapeake' s spending and cash flow has narrowed considerably this year, helped by higher natural gas prices and rising oil production. Mr. Lawler said he would seek to close this gap by 2014.

Dow Jones Newswires

08/15/2013

 

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