Chesapeake Energy Corp. on April 27 announced the departure of its CEO, Doug Lawler, and tapped Mike Wichterich to lead the company in the interim.

Lawler had served as president, CEO and as a director on the Chesapeake board since June 2013.

In a statement commenting on Lawler’s departure, Wichterich said: “On behalf of the board of directors, Chesapeake’s employees and its shareholders, I would like to thank Doug for the vision and leadership he provided for the past 8 years. He guided Chesapeake through a difficult period, repositioned Chesapeake’s portfolio of assets, and built a corporate culture which will serve as a platform for future success.”

Lawler stepped in at Chesapeake after the departure of the company’s then CEO, Aubrey K. McClendon, who co-founded the Oklahoma City-based company and built it into a shale gas giant. Previously, Lawler had served as senior vice president of international and deepwater operations at Anadarko Petroleum.

While at the helm of Chesapeake, Lawler resolved to rebuild the company and clean up its balance sheet, including through a slew of asset sales.

In 2018, in hopes of bolstering its exposure to oil, Chesapeake agreed to acquire WildHorse Resource Development, which gave the company a position in the oil window of the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas.

However, depressed commodity prices and lingering debt issues eventually caught up with the company and Chesapeake voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2020.


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Chesapeake, which successfully completed its restructuring and emerged from bankruptcy in February, said that, under its court-approved plan of reorganization, approximately $7.8 billion of the company’s debt had been equitized. The company’s preferred and common equity interests were also cancelled.

The reorganization also included a refocus of Chesapeake operations primarily on gas production. The company said it planned to direct 85% of its capital to its top-tier Marcellus and Haynesville assets this year.

Mike Wichterich speaking at Hart Energy’s DUG Permian Basin Conference in 2016
Mike Wichterich speaking at Hart Energy’s DUG Permian Basin Conference in 2016.

Lawler’s departure as CEO of Chesapeake will take effect April 30. While the board of directors conducts a search for his replacement, Wichterich, currently chairman of the Chesapeake board of directors, will serve as interim CEO.

“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 added in his statement.

Wichterich had joined the company’s board in February as part of Chesapeake’s reorganization plan.

Previously, Wichterich had served as CEO of Three Rivers Operating Co. LLC, a private E&P company in the Permian Basin which he founded. He also currently serves on the boards of Grizzly Energy, Bruin E&P Operating and Extraction Oil and Gas.

In the company release, Chesapeake said it expects to complete its search for a new CEO over the coming months. During that period, Matt Gallagher, the former CEO of Parsley Energy who currently chairs Chesapeake’s nominating and governance committee, will serve as lead independent director.

Wichterich intends to continue in his role as chair of the Chesapeake board following the appointment of the company’s new CEO.

According to a memo to employees Reuters said it obtained, Wichterich said the hunt for a new CEO will “likely take several months.” He plans to meet with Chesapeake employees this week to offer his outlook for the direction of the company, Reuters reported the memo as saying.