Chesapeake Energy hires Anadarko executive as CEO

Mon May 20, 2013 12:56pm EDT
 
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By Anna Driver

(Reuters) - Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK.N: Quote) on Monday named a top executive at rival Anadarko Petroleum Corp (APC.N: Quote) to head the No. 2 U.S. natural gas producer, which has suffered a governance crisis and liquidity crunch over the last year.

Chesapeake hired Robert Douglas Lawler, senior vice president of international and deepwater operations at Anadarko, to fill the post vacated by co-founder Aubrey McClendon in April.

Shares of Chesapeake were up 4 percent as Lawler's appointment ends a three-month search for McClendon's replacement.

Lawler, who takes over as CEO on June 17, faces a number of challenges in his new job. Several years of low natural gas prices and Chesapeake's heavy spending to acquire oil and gas properties in shale formations have left the company saddled with about $13 billion in debt.

Chesapeake has forecast a funding shortfall of $3.5 billion this year and said it will sell up to $7 billion in assets to help cover the expected gap between operating cash flow and capital expenditures.

"He is coming into a company that has serious challenges," said Fadel Gheit, an oil company analyst Oppenheimer. It's a mine field that he has to navigate through, but he's very experienced and I feel he will live up to the challenge."

Lawler, 46, worked for 25 years at Anadarko and Kerr-McGee, which Anadarko acquired in 2006. The petroleum engineer has experience in both onshore and offshore operations and was mostly recently responsible for big projects including Anadarko's liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Mozambique.

Lawler should help "to turn the page on the Aubrey McClendon saga that has consumed the story for the past year," Wells Fargo analyst David Tameron said in a research note and others noted that he would bring needed capital discipline to Chesapeake.   Continued...

 
Chesapeake Energy Corporation's 50 acre campus is seen in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Steve Sisney