Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett is stepping down in May and handing the job over to Chief Operating Officer Al Walker, the oil and gas producer said on Tuesday.
The timing of the move by Mr. Hackett, who will remain as executive chairman, came as a mild surprise to company watchers,
“It is not something I was expecting,” said Sanford Bernstein & Co analyst Bob Brackett.
Still, the leadership change probably does not signal a shift in strategy.
“Its a logical succession, and it’s an internal move,” said Argus Research analyst Phil Weiss.
Mr. Hackett told reporters on a conference call that the move had been planned for quite a while, and he said he would help Mr. Walker in the transition through his role as executive chairman.
Mr. Walker said he did not plan any major changes as he stepped into the CEO role.
“The company’s operating performance has never been better; our exploration track record is certainly industry-leading,” he said on the conference call. “Consequently, there really is not a need for a strategy change.”
Mr. Hackett, 58, is widely credited with turning Anadarko from a company that struggled to find new energy supplies to one of the most successful U.S. oil and gas explorers. The company’s shares rose threefold during his tenure as CEO.
Much of that growth came after he spent $21-billion (U.S.) to buy Kerr-McGee Corp and Western Gas in 2006, a move that helped Anadarko expand in the Gulf of Mexico.
That strategy of growing in the offshore fields has led to some of the biggest oil finds for the company over the past two years as it explored new areas off the western coast of Africa.
But it also brought unwanted liabilities through its minority stake in BP’s Macondo oil well, which exploded in a blowout in the Gulf of Mexico nearly two years ago, causing the world’s worst maritime spill ever.
The two companies publicly argued over whether Anadarko bore any financial responsibility for the disaster, which occurred at a BP-operated site. Anadarko eventually settled the dispute by agreeing to pay BP $4-billion.
Mr. Walker, 55, joined the company in 2005 as chief financial officer.
Before joining Anadarko, Mr. Walker was a managing director at UBS Investment Bank’s global energy group from 2003 to 2005.
He is a director of Centerpoint Energy, Inc and Temple-Inland Inc, as well as Western Gas Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Anadarko and general partner of Western Gas Partners LP, a publicly traded midstream master limited partnership.
Shares of Anadarko slipped 1.7 per cent in early trading to $86.52.
That drop was largely a reaction to weaker-than-expected results from a test well off the coast of Sierre Leone, Sanford Bernstein analyst Brackett said.
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