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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

“That's a pretty significant flight of good jobs from the city,” he said.

He said the culture at Chesapeake changed once co-founder Aubrey McClendon left in April, shifting the overall mood from idealism to cynicism.

“We thought we were part of something big before he left,” he said. “After the ouster, everyone knew it was just another energy company.”

Lawler said Tuesday he and the rest of Chesapeake's leadership team are working to improve morale within the company.

“What we need to do is focus on the future, focus on how we can be more profitable and more competitive. With the right strategy in place, which I believe we have, the employees will align around that,” Lawler said. “With the support of the board and the support of the employees, with this strategy, I believe we will be very successful.”

“Now it's time to look forward to the horizon and look forward to becoming and achieving the full potential of Chesapeake,” he said.

Market reaction

Chesapeake's efforts this week have drawn a mixed reaction on Wall Street.

Chesapeake shares closed at $26.47 Friday, up 1.8 percent since Tuesday's layoff announcements on a volatile week for Wall Street. Chesapeake shares are up more than 27 percent since May 20 when Lawler was named CEO.

Amir Arif, an analyst for Stifel Financial Corp, on Friday downgraded the company's stock to hold from buy because of “expectations for no production growth heading into 2014, and a view that ongoing efficiency improvements and additional potential noncore asset sales will not add enough meaningful upside potential to the stock.”

Analyst Fadel Gheit has praised the company's efforts, but said he expects more changes.

“Chesapeake is under new management, with a new mandate and a new business strategy,” said Gheit, an analyst with Oppenheimer and Co. in New York. “Staff reductions reflect these changes and are central to implementing the new strategy. We expect more changes in the next few months.”

Specifically, Gheit said he expects more asset sales, more debt reduction, lower capital spending and further staff reductions.

by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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