Chesapeake Energy Corp. shares jumped nearly 3 percent Monday after the Oklahoma City energy company tapped Anadarko Petroleum executive Robert Douglas Lawler as its new CEO.
Lawler, 46, is senior vice president of international and deepwater operations for Houston-based Anadarko, which in 2006 bought Oklahoma City-based Kerr-McGee Corp. Lawler is set to begin at Chesapeake on June 17.
“I am honored and excited to be joining Chesapeake Energy with its unparalleled asset portfolio, focused management team and very talented and dedicated employees,” Lawler said Monday in a statement. “There is significant value in Chesapeake's asset base and the growth potential of the company is tremendous.
“I look forward to accelerating the momentum that the Chesapeake team has built to generate value for our shareholders in the years ahead.”
Lawler's appointment drew praise from Wall Street on Monday.
“We believe Lawler's appointment is another step in the right direction for Chesapeake,” said Mark Hanson, an analyst with Morningstar in Chicago.
Hanson said he is pleased Chesapeake tapped a petroleum engineer since the company is now focused on developing assets instead of acquiring land.
“Moreover, he appears entirely comfortable dealing with the financial, legal and operational complexity that he will be inheriting at Chesapeake, as evidenced by his successful oversight of Anadarko's offshore Mozambique assets,” Hanson said.
Analyst Phil Weiss had called for Chesapeake to tap someone outside the company who had a financial background to replace co-founder Aubrey McClendon as CEO.
“I have long maintained that CHK (Chesapeake) would be best served by going outside the organization to fill McClendon's spot. This certainly hits the mark in that regard,” said Weiss, an analyst with Argus in New York. “According to the press release, Lawler has a reputation for operational performance and capital efficiency. However, I will note that APC (Anadarko) has a relatively high cost structure, so I am less certain of his abilities in those areas. All in all, I view this as a net positive for CHK.”
Lawler is a petroleum engineer with 25 years of experience in the upstream exploration and production industry. He got his start at Kerr-McGee in 1988.
“Doug is a talented and proven executive with the ideal skill set to lead Chesapeake forward and capitalize fully on our world-class assets,” Chesapeake Chairman Archie Dunham said. “Throughout his 25 years in the upstream E&P industry, Doug has earned a reputation as a highly engaged and knowledgeable leader who delivers superior operational performance and capital efficiency.
“The board is confident that Doug's deep technical upstream and engineering expertise as well as his strategic and financial skills will serve Chesapeake well. We look forward to working with him to create value for Chesapeake shareholders.”
With Lawler assuming the CEO position at Chesapeake, the Office of the Chairman will be discontinued, and Dunham, Steve Dixon and Nick Dell'Osso will continue to serve in their roles as nonexecutive chairman, executive vice president of operations and geosciences and chief operating officer, and executive vice president and chief financial officer, respectively.
“We thank Steve and Nick for the key roles they played in this transition and for their exemplary service as members of the Office of the Chairman during our CEO search,” Dunham said. “The company did not miss a beat during this interim period, and their effective collaboration reflects their strong leadership skills and teamwork ethic.
“Steve, Nick and the rest of the executive group, under Doug's leadership, will form a highly talented and experienced management team that will lead Chesapeake into its next phase of success and prosperity.”