Chesapeake Energy Corp. named a longtime Oklahoma City trial attorney from the state's largest law firm as its general counsel Friday.
James R. Webb, a partner at McAfee & Taft, will become senior vice president — legal and general counsel for Chesapeake.
Chesapeake said former general counsel Henry J. Hood, the company's senior vice president for land and legal since 1997, will retain his responsibilities for Chesapeake's land and regulatory departments. Hood was named general counsel in 2006.
Webb, 45, has been working on a contract basis with Chesapeake for the last four months as chief legal counsel.
Chesapeake has faced numerous lawsuits from shareholders in the last several months as revelations came to light about CEO Aubrey McClendon's personal financial dealings involving his stakes in the company's wells. Other legal issues include investigations into land deals in Michigan and an informal inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission's Fort Worth, Texas, office.
In a statement, McClendon said Webb was well-known and highly regarded in the legal and business communities.
“During the past four months at Chesapeake, Jim has earned the respect of his colleagues on our senior management team,” McClendon said. “I have great confidence that Jim and Henry will continue to work well together and this change in responsibility will allow Henry to focus exclusively on the company's important land and regulatory initiatives currently under way.”
Webb has been at McAfee & Taft for 17 years, including the last 12 years as a partner. He was part of the legal team retained by the Professional Basketball Club LLC, owners of the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA franchise, in their legal fight against the city of Seattle. The resolution of that case led to the team's relocation to Oklahoma City.
“While I'm very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead with Chesapeake, I'm immeasurably grateful for the support of my law partners and the incredible experiences I've had while at McAfee & Taft these past 17 years,” Webb said in a statement.
Richard Nix, managing director of McAfee & Taft, said the firm was excited for Webb and his family.
“Chesapeake is a wonderful organization with an already talented legal department, and Jim's talents and experience will continue to serve them well,” Nix said in a statement. “This is, without a doubt, an exceptional opportunity for both him and Chesapeake, and we wish them all the best.”
Webb graduated from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, and has a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. He worked at the Denver law firm of Gorsuch Kirgis before moving to Oklahoma City to work at McAfee & Taft.