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Chesapeake executives focus on the future

After laying off about 800 people last week, Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. has set its focus on the company's future.
by Adam Wilmoth Modified: October 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm •  Published: October 13, 2013

After laying off about 800 people last week, Chesapeake Energy Corp. has set its focus on the company's future.

“I see in the future a lot of really great things for the company, and I'm very excited about it. I believe we have all the right elements in place to be a sustainable, strong, growing enterprise,” Chesapeake CEO Doug Lawler told The Oklahoman on Tuesday.

Despite proclaiming an end to the uncertainty over the recent layoffs, Lawler left open the possibility of additional changes.

“I see going forward that, as we've stated publicly, that there could potentially be additional asset sales, and for performance purposes, there might be additional impacts to personnel. But this transformation process and what's associated with it is over,” he said.

In general, however, Lawler stressed that he expects the company to grow in the future.

“When I say there could potentially be other people leave the company, I also want to note that it would just be in the normal course of business,” he said. “Also, we're a growth company. We are not a harvest company. We're a company that is going to be a strong and vibrant part of the community for a long time. I used the word ‘decades' because of my confidence in it.”

Overall Chesapeake has shed about 1,200 jobs nationwide since the first of the year, Lawler said. The number includes layoffs and attrition.

The cuts were widely expected after a shareholder-led revolt last year replaced most of the company's directors, who then ousted co-founder Aubrey McClendon as CEO.

“ ... bigger than I thought.”

The specter of job losses lingered at Chesapeake for months, said one of the employees who was laid off this week. He spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his severance package. After layoffs, companies often include clauses in severance agreements that prevent employees from disparaging the company or discussing company affairs.

He noted Chairman Archie Dunham said the company was too big when he joined the board last summer.

“Everyone knew cuts were coming,” he said. “But the size (of cuts) in my department was vastly bigger than I thought.”

He said he was disappointed to lose his job Tuesday because he liked it and did it well. He has some other job prospects, but he may be forced to leave Oklahoma City to find work.

He is leaning toward going to Colorado, but predicted many of his former colleagues may end up in Houston.

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