Chesapeake searches for next CEO after Lawler’s abrupt exit

By Sergio Chapa and Simon Casey on 4/27/2021

(Bloomberg) — Chesapeake Energy Corp. is searching for its next chief executive officer after the sudden departure of Doug Lawler less than three months on from the company’s exit from bankruptcy and as speculation continues to swirl about consolidation in the U.S. shale industry.

Lawler
Lawler

Lawler’s departure is effective April 30 and Chairman Mike Wichterich will serve as interim CEO, the Oklahoma City-based company said Tuesday in a statement.

“Doug leaves the Company in a great position for future success, and this decision is not a reflection of his performance or the result of any action on his part,” Wichterich said in an email to employees that was seen by Bloomberg. “The search for a new CEO will likely take several months.”

Chesapeake may play a part in future consolidation of the fragmented U.S. natural gas industry. It was weighing an offer for Alta Resources that could value the closely held explorer at more than $3 billion, people familiar with the matter said last month.

Lawler, a former chief of overseas exploration at Anadarko Petroleum Corp., was billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s hand-picked choice to lead the oil and gas company in 2013. He pursued a style that was in stark contrast to the extravagance of the late Aubrey McClendon, slashing costs and reducing the size of the workforce by about 90%.

In one of the most recent signs of the austerity at Chesapeake, the Oklahoma City Thunder said last week the company is terminating its naming rights agreement for the NBA basketball team’s arena.

Chesapeake grappled with, and was eventually overwhelmed by, huge debts racked up during an earlier period of soaring energy prices, filing for bankruptcy in June of last year with more than $9 billion in borrowings. The company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February as a much smaller company.

The shares were up 0.2% to $46.97 as of 11:57 a.m. in New York.

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