Oklahoma native Jerry Winchester was tabbed in September to run Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s next subsidiary to spin off into a public company.
Winchester heads Chesapeake Oilfield Services LLC, a service company built over the past decade as part of Chesapeake's vertical integration strategy.
Chesapeake has invested about $1.8 billion in its service companies to provide its exploration and production operations with premium services at attractive prices.
Winchester joined the company after 13 years as CEO of Boots & Coots International Well Control Inc., which was acquired by Halliburton last year.
Winchester recently talked with The Oklahoman about his life and career. This is an edited transcript:
Q: You've got experience running a service company that was acquired by a bigger company in the oil and natural gas industry. How will that experience help you as you prepare to go in the opposite direction with Chesapeake Oilfield Services?
A: I think the important part here is to deliver service and make decisions like a small company with the critical mass and substance of a large company. While we have a small group of folks who are new to the oil field, most of our folks came from some other service company — mostly the large ones. They are intrigued with the ability to start something up from a seemingly blank sheet of paper. No legacy issues or social problems. Everyone starts on the same page.
Q: What do you think this new company has to offer to investors?
A: What we have been able to establish is a “cycle resistant” service company that can thrive greatly in the up cycle and stay highly utilized in the down cycle. This also allows us to hire and attract folks in the industry who have lived through the cyclical process and want to get off that treadmill. This helps drive a culture of service quality and thus helps with our financial goal, which ultimately leads to consistent and better-than-average financial results.
Q: What drew you to Chesapeake after more than a dozen years as CEO of Boots & Coots?
A: I had a great run at Boots & Coots (B&C), and with Halliburton for that matter. I really liked the pressure control business and especially being globally recognized as the premier company in that space. Now I get a chance to shift gears to a completely different model. I burned through five or six passports at B&C since 80 percent of our business was outside the U.S. Being a native Oklahoman, I get to come home and concentrate on a U.S.-based entity where I won't wake up in the middle of the night and have to find my boarding pass to remember where I am. But more than that, this is a unique opportunity to vertically integrate a service company and launch it into a public entity. While this concept is not new, I don't know of anyone who has done it with the critical mass of the most active U.S. land driller as its biggest customer and partner.
Q: How did you end up working in the oil and gas industry?
A: I had been working around my hometown of Dickson for about $5 per hour. My uncle said I could get a summer job working in the oil field for ‘thirteen or thirteen fifty.' I committed to do it then found out that it wasn't $13.50 an hour, it was $1,350 a month. This turned out to be about $3 and some change per hour working 80 to 90 hours a week. Oops. I had already committed so I didn't go back on my word. I found out I really enjoyed working in the oil field, and it was a great decision made for the wrong reason.
Q: What do you think you'd be doing if you weren't working in this industry?
A: After 29 years and countless interviews, a question I have never been asked. I'm a pilot. I learned to fly and earned my license when I was a junior at Oklahoma State. Aviation has always interested me and even today when I'm flying I still look out the window at the ground and enjoy the experience. And being interested in machines and mechanical things, it suits me well. But one of the most rewarding aspects of my job has been the opportunity to coach people and see them succeed. The former COO at B&C and I always joked that our best day would be coaching some junior high football team in a small town, so that's probably where I would have been most successful.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I really enjoy college football. Between our plane and an RV, I have traveled a lot with my wife and daughters. And I never get to use my shotgun enough.
• Position: Chief executive officer of Chesapeake Oilfield Services LLC
• Birth date: March 1959
• Hometown: Born in Okmulgee, grew up in Dickson
• Residence: Nichols Hills
• Family: Wife Rae (from McAlester), daughters Leigh (sophomore at OSU) and Abbie (seventh-grader at Heritage Hall)
• Education: Bachelor's degree in engineering technology — mechanical power from Oklahoma State University (1983)
• Civic/volunteer activities: I chaired the board of the OSU Alumni Association, and I currently serve as a trustee to the OSU Foundation. Also, I'm about to start as a board member with the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Beyond that, I have served on boards ranging from Duncan Regional Hospital to committees for the International Association of Drilling Contractors.
• What's on your iPod? Real country music … anything older than the early 1990s.
• What newspapers and magazines do you read? Even when I lived in Houston, I read The Oklahoman online. I also sometimes read the Daily Ardmoreite and the Houston Chronicle. And I enjoy aggregated news, particularly the Drudge Report. I just started reading This Land too. And for magazines, I read a lot of flying magazines and some industry trades.
• First thing you read each day? I start by scanning my emails on my iPad. After working for a company that did business around the world, I got used to getting emails throughout the night. After my emails, I usually read the Drudge Report or FoxNews.com. Also, I get The Oklahoman delivered each day, but I usually read it online.