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Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy's search for new CEO compared to replacing football coach

CEO Aubrey McClendon's departure at Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. sets the stage for a search for a replacement.
by Adam Wilmoth Modified: January 31, 2013 at 7:35 pm •  Published: January 31, 2013

Aubrey McClendon's departure at Chesapeake Energy Corp. sets the stage for a search for his successor.

The Oklahoma City energy company said Tuesday it has retained executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles to conduct a national search, but Chesapeake's directors did not spell out exactly what they are looking for in a new chief.

It's fairly unusual for a Fortune 500 company to lose its top executive without a succession plan in place.

But the discussion — and even many of the terms used — is similar to a process very common throughout the country, especially about this time of year.

Every winter, dozens of college football coaches throughout the country find themselves on the outs after becoming at odds with their athletic directors or boosters.

Sometimes the departure is simply because the coach didn't win enough. Other times, a change at the top is made because of some ethical or legal violation.

Chesapeake seems not unlike an Ohio State or Southern California, with a history of success, faithful funders and top-notch facilities, but is facing uncertainty from regulators.

Industry observers have different opinions about what kind of person would best fill the role.

Bernstein Research analyst Bob Brackett said McClendon did a good job of building Chesapeake into one of the largest natural gas and oil companies in the country, but now it needs someone better equipped to manage and develop those assets.

“If Chesapeake is indeed serious about entering a ‘harvest' mode and living closer within its means, the company is better served having a leader who embodies that strategy,” Brackett wrote Wednesday.

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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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