It’s been just nine months since he took the helm at Chesapeake Energy Corp., but CEO Doug Lawler joked Tuesday it feels more like five years.
The speed at which the company and its employees moved impressed Lawler when he got to the Oklahoma City energy company in June. That speed also helped Lawler institute a new strategy of financial discipline at the company.
“When I came in, I was absolutely astounded at the speed and the energy that resided within Chesapeake,” Lawler said Tuesday at the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City. “The ability to do things quickly and the inherent trait of speed is something you can’t coach.”
Lawler touted Chesapeake’s speed when he embarked on a cost-cutting strategy last year, an effort that included layoffs in Oklahoma City and in several other states. The company reduced its capital expenditures and sold assets in an effort to clean up its balance sheet, Lawler said.
“Our strategy now is driven on financial discipline and profitable and efficient growth from our captured resources,” he said.
Lawler’s presentation came hours before he was scheduled to have dinner with investor Carl Icahn, one of the large shareholders who pressed the company to make major changes two years ago. Lawler declined to comment on what the pair would talk about. Chesapeake representatives downplayed the significance of the Icahn meeting, saying Lawler continuously briefs all types of investors about the company’s performance.
Chesapeake employs 11,000 people and operates more than 45,000 wells across the country. Lawler said the shale gas revolution led by independent oil and gas companies like Chesapeake has entered a new phase after the rapid growth of the last decade.
“Oil and gas is shifting in the United States to more of a manufacturing process, where we’re trying to capture greater margins, reduce our costs and capture greater value for our shareholders,” Lawler said.
Lawler said Chesapeake’s oil and gas assets in the United States continue to attract interest from others around the globe.
“We have a world-class inventory here in the United States,” he said. “How do I know it’s a world-class inventory? Because everyone in the world wants our assets: the Europeans, the Asians and various Middle Eastern countries have expressed interest in our assets.”
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