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    Chesapeake CEO departs after emerging from Chapter 11


One of the largest US shale gas producers has experienced a steady series of corporate setbacks.

by: Daniel Graeber

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Chesapeake CEO departs after emerging from Chapter 11

US-based energy company Chesapeake said April 27 that CEO Doug Lawler would leave his position, just months after the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

After nearly a decade in the front office, Lawler will leave effective April 30. The chairman of the company’s board of directors, Mike Wichterich, will serve as interim CEO during the search for Lawler’s replacement.

“I firmly believe that the investment thesis supporting Chesapeake is compelling, and my confidence in the renewed strength of the company continues to grow,” Wichterich said.

The beleaguered company was founded by Aubrey McLendon and Tom Ward in the 1980s, leading pioneering efforts in the US shale boom. McLendon stepped down as CEO in 2013 and the company he helped found later sued him on charges of misappropriating funds.

McLendon died in a single-vehicle crash in 2016. At its peak, the company was the second biggest US gas producer behind ExxonMobil, but it overextended itself, racking up $13bn in debt by the time Lawler took over as CEO in 2013.

By June of last year, the company had joined the growing rank of energy companies buckling under the economic pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Emerging from Chapter 11 in January, the company appointed a new board of directors comprised of Lawler, Wichterich, Timothy Duncan, Benjamin Duster, Sarah Emerson, Matthew Gallagher and Brian Steck. 

At the time, Chesapeake said it expected to generate more than $2bn in free cash flow over the next five years, reinvesting that in downstream operations.

Chesapeake expects to produce 427,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe)/day in 2021, versus 435,000 boe/day in Q4 2020.

No guidance revisions were offered in the announcement of Lawler’s departure.