Skip to main content
rob magazine

It was supposed to be a Canadian champion too big to fall into foreign hands. Now it’s gone. Who’s to blame?

Open this photo in gallery:

(morgan) Frank Gunn/cp, (eresman) Mike Sturk/cp, (o’brien, suttles) Jeff McIntosh/cp; (right) istock; (pumpjack) Todd Korol for The Globe and Mail; istock/The Globe and Mail

It took Gwyn Morgan 30 gruelling years to build Encana Corp. into Canada’s flagship energy producer and only one email to upend his life’s work.

Everything came crashing down during a trip to Israel in late 2019, when a newspaper asked him to comment on Encana’s latest news. At first, he wasn’t sure what the fuss was about. But sitting on a bus en route to the Dead Sea, he learned the company was changing its name—to Ovintiv, of all things—and, more jarring, abandoning Calgary for Denver. “That was pretty much the worst day of my career,” says Morgan.

By then, he hadn’t been close to Encana for over a decade—he retired as CEO in 2005—but it was still his baby. He’d spent three decades toiling over unconventional oil and gas assets to create what he called a “global super-independent,” and he was the driving force behind a 2002 merger to create a company big and strong enough to be protected from U.S. suitors desperate to get their hands on Canadian energy assets.

Morgan and his wife, Pat Trottier, had even named the company themselves, settling on Encana—a portmanteau of “energy” and “Canada”—while cross-country skiing. So the rebrand felt like a twist of the knife. “There was no need to do that,” says Morgan. “That really pissed me off.”

Blessed with all the advantages an energy firm could want, including some royalty-free acreage and a reputation as a low-cost producer, Encana once seemed unstoppable. For a time, it was Canada’s most valuable company, worth more than even Royal Bank of Canada. Its crescent-shaped skyscraper, the Bow, was designed by some of the world’s top architects, signalling Calgary as a global energy power.

Yet, starting in 2009, Encana spun off its oil sands assets (at an unfortunate time) under the direction of Morgan’s hand-picked successor, Randy Eresman; brought in American executive Doug Suttles, who paid premium prices to shift the company’s centre of gravity south of the border; wrote down US$20 billion in assets; and changed its strategy so many times that no one really knew what it stood for anymore. Since December 2009—when it hived off its oil assets into Cenovus Energy—Encana’s shares have lost 80% of their value (meaning RBC is now 20 times larger by market cap).

Something had to give. But ditching Calgary altogether? In the words of Cenovus’s CEO, Alex Pourbaix, it was a “tragedy for Canada.” Encana’s raison d’être was to be the energy giant that could never fall into foreign hands. “The driving force behind the merger, the driving force behind my career, the driving force behind everything, was a great Canadian-headquartered company that would never move,” Morgan says from his home on the Saanich Peninsula, north of Victoria.

When the news broke, everyone wanted to blame someone else for the pending loss of an Alberta icon. It was all Justin Trudeau’s fault for turning investors off Canadian oil and gas, or Eresman’s for splitting off the oil assets, or the board’s for hiring an outsider, or Suttles’s for ignoring the company’s Canadian roots.

But in January 2020, Encana—soon to be Ovintiv—won shareholder approval for its plan to relocate stateside. Then COVID-19 hit, and the company slipped south with no further debate.

And so, a little over a year later, the mystery remains: Who really killed Encana?

The gas giant formerly known as Encana used to be two companies. PanCanadian Energy, once part of the Canadian Pacific empire, controlled swaths of royalty-free acreage given to CP through an 1880s land grant from Ottawa. In fall 2001, the oil and gas unit was spun off in the “starburst” deal that also saw the conglomerate’s railway, hotel, shipping and coal-mining operations set free as stand-alone businesses.

Rival Alberta Energy Co., meanwhile, started out as a provincial Crown corporation with drilling rights to massive military ranges in the eastern part of the province. AEC, as it was known, went public in 1975 under Premier Peter Lougheed, and its shares were sold to Alberta residents for $10 each. The goal was for moms and pops to own a piece of the Western dream. Morgan was one of AEC’s first employees.

The two companies came together on a Sunday in late January 2002, when Morgan and David O’Brien, PanCanadian’s chair and interim CEO, heralded the formation of EnCana (the “C” was originally capitalized) at the Palliser Hotel in downtown Calgary. They billed it as a “Canadian-headquartered, world-class independent oil and gas company.” And with an enterprise value of $27 billion, it instantly became a national champion that could show off its technological know-how in oil and gas basins around the world.

Besides its dominance in Western Canada, Encana had operations off Canada’s east coast and in the U.S. Rockies, the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea and Ecuador. It controlled Canada’s main gas storage and trading hub in southeastern Alberta; a promising offshore gas project off the coast of Nova Scotia, Deep Panuke; and two state-of-the art steam-driven oil sands projects near Fort McMurray, Foster Creek and Christina Lake.

Open this photo in gallery:

Encana’s creation was a relief to many in the oil patch. With the loonie so cheap, there had been a simmering worry that Canada could lose its best-known players to U.S. rivals. That fear was well-founded: Within a five-month span in 2001, Gulf Canada Resources, Anderson Exploration and Canadian Hunter Exploration were all swallowed. And after the abrupt resignation of PanCanadian’s CEO, David Tuer, in October 2001, the standalone company had a target on its back.

With Morgan as CEO and O’Brien as board chair, Encana expanded by drilling in the U.S. and plunking down billions of dollars for natural gas assets in Colorado and Texas. Then, little by little, it divested its international assets, with Morgan choosing to focus on what the company did best: coaxing more oil and gas out of the ground in Canada and the U.S. for less and less money.

The timing couldn’t have been better—for both Encana’s shareholders and for Morgan’s legacy as CEO. Oil prices were starting an unprecedented run toward US$150 a barrel, and the price of natural gas began its surge beyond US$10 per million British thermal units (BTUs) amid fears of a continent-wide shortage.

Employees from Encana’s early days recall a high-performance atmosphere. As head of the old AEC, Morgan—a rural Alberta boy—had been a whiz at fostering corporate culture. He set clear production and financial goals, and rewarded employees when they met so-called stretch targets. (He used an elastic Gumby doll as a mascot, and it even showed up at the company Christmas party. “It was pretty corny,” he says, chuckling.)

Morgan built on that style at Encana. The workers were known as Encanans, and it was a moniker he embraced. Morgan was the charismatic boss, while his operations chief, Eresman, was known for his technical smarts, devising plans for Encana’s projects and seeing them through. “Gwyn liked to be the spokesperson and the leader and the visionary and the communicator,” says Ryder McRitchie, who came to Encana via PanCanadian as a young engineer and rose to the executive ranks, leading investor relations and communications before leaving in 2015. “Randy was a true engineer, operator, executor. He knew how to get things done. It was a good combo.”

Soon, Calgary saw Encana as part of the corporate home team, much like WestJet Airlines and CP Rail. Albertans who didn’t even work there took it as a point of pride when, in 2005, Encana’s market value on the TSX surpassed that of long-time top dog RBC, accounting for about 5% of the S&P/TSX Composite Index. (Coincidentally, O’Brien was the chair of RBC’s board at the same time.)

With the city’s encouragement, Encana started drawing up plans for a new office tower that would stand as a physical testament to its world-class stature. With a billion-dollar budget, Encana commissioned Foster + Partners, the elite architects behind London’s Gherkin, to build its curvy new landmark on the prominent corner of Centre St. and 6th Ave. Then the tallest skyscraper in the city, the Bow would consolidate employees spread across five different buildings.

By late 2005, Encana looked invincible, and Morgan decided the time was right to hand the reins to Eresman. Not only was the outgoing CEO turning 60, it was also the 30th anniversary of AEC’s public market debut. Besides, his legacy was all but assured. On the day he announced his retirement, Morgan told The Globe and Mail: “You don’t put your life and your passion behind something unless you know you have the right kind of person to carry it on.”

Within months, however, Morgan’s former protégé was contemplating what the founding CEO considered unthinkable: breaking up Encana.

Investment bankers, armed with sum-of-the-parts calculations, were pitching Eresman on the idea of splitting it into two companies: one producing gas, the other drawing crude from the oil sands. So-called pure plays were becoming the new holy grail, as investors clamoured for simplicity and the ability to focus on a single commodity.

Morgan was technically still in the picture—he’d arranged to hang around for a year as executive vice-chair to instill confidence during the transition (or at least, that’s how he spun it). But there was little he could do about a potential split. “One of the great lessons in life is that when the CEO is leaving, your influence is ending,” he says now.

The calls to break up Encana grew louder. Advisers salivating over the fees they could earn from negotiating the split talked up how much the two divisions could be worth separately, since investors would supposedly be better able to value each business. Morgan says he never bought the hype. “If you think about it that way,” he says, “there’s no way you can have a long-term vision about building a company.”

Outraged, he stepped down three months early, though the company made it seem to outsiders like that was always the plan. “I just did not want to be involved in breaking up the company,” he says. (Morgan went on to become board chair of SNC-Lavalin, where his tenure was tainted after a top executive admitted to paying bribes to Saadi Gaddafi in order to land contracts in Libya. Morgan has always said the bribes were disguised as part of normal project costs, and there was no way for board members to detect them.)

The split didn’t happen immediately, however. First, Eresman flirted with turning Encana into an income trust to avoid paying corporate tax (a move Morgan also objected to). But with other heavyweights like Telus and BCE contemplating the same move, Ottawa kiboshed trusts altogether. That put the bifurcation back on Eresman’s priority list.

For Encana, the goal was to make investors realize its gas potential, partly because gas was seen as more environmentally friendly than oil—and far cleaner than coal. “Everyone thought natural gas was the fuel of the future,” says O’Brien, adding the company was constantly questioned about its substantial exposure to the “dirty” oil sands.

Eresman was similarly convinced natural gas prices were bound to rise. Demand was surging, and the conventional producers couldn’t keep up because their wells were generally small and dried up quickly. Encana, meanwhile, was focused on unconventional gas plays deep underground. That made its wells more expensive but also more prolific. As gas prices rose, Eresman bet Encana’s technical prowess would allow it to beat its rivals by pumping more fuel at a lower cost than they could.

With the price of natural gas soaring toward US$13 per million BTU, Encana announced its split in May 2008. Management had given its oil sands unit a strong foundation to go it alone, having formed a US$15-billion joint venture with U.S. oil major ConocoPhillips that secured access to refineries in Illinois and Texas. Just four months later, however, the global financial system nearly imploded, sending both oil and gas prices plummeting. Encana’s share price dropped by 55% in four months, and management was forced to focus on simply staying afloat. By late 2009, the worst was over, and 99% of Encana shareholders approved the spinoff of the oil assets into a new company, called Cenovus.

This should have been Eresman’s time to shine. A native of Medicine Hat, he’d joined AEC after graduating with a degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Wyoming, and he’d spent his entire career under Morgan’s wing. (Eresman declined to comment for this story.) Now that Encana was focused on gas extraction, he was eager to implement his growth strategy, built around an operating model dubbed “the gas factory”—the idea that the fuel could be produced almost as a repetitive manufacturing process.

Internally, Eresman sometimes had trouble rallying the troops. Where Morgan had a knack for making employees feel like they were part of something bigger, Eresman was an introvert who hated giving presentations, but he cared deeply about his employees. “He was actually very self-aware,” says McRitchie. “He talked about the different coaches he was getting for his public speaking. And he wanted to be good at what he wasn’t good at.”

The bigger issue for Eresman was that gas prices fell into a funk. They’d clawed their way back to US$6 in January 2010, when everyone was high on the post-crisis recovery, but within two years, they’d dropped to US$2, a low not seen since 2002.

In a way, Eresman had been right about unconventional gas. The old-school stuff had become problematic, and competing producers were getting more sophisticated with their technical expertise. The problem was they used these newly honed skills to tap vast quantities of so-called shale oil and gas in the United States, which never used to figure into reserve estimates. As Encana touted its gas factory, rival shale producers such as Pioneer Natural Resources and EOG Resources became masters of fracking—shooting sand, water and chemicals into rock and forcing it to fracture, allowing oil or gas to escape through the cracks.

Fracking spread through Pennsylvania, Louisiana, the Bakken in North Dakota and the Permian Basin in Texas. The U.S. was suddenly awash in oil and gas, which spelled big trouble for Encana and many other Canadian producers because it meant their biggest export market morphed into their biggest competitor.

Eresman tried to expand the North American market by promoting natural gas as a less expensive transport fuel and investing in technology to make that happen. He also touted its environmental edge over gasoline and diesel. Still, the deluge of gas pushed prices down.

“I remember back when Encana announced they were going to double their gas production within five years,” says New York–based equity analyst Phil Skolnick, who is now with Eight Capital. “This was around 2010, and I actually downgraded the stock.” Because plans to build liquefied natural gas plants to export the fuel abroad were still in their infancy, the newfound supply was landlocked in both Canada and the U.S. “So that scared me,” Skolnick says.

It scared the market, too. Over two years, Encana’s stock dropped by 52%, wiping out any gains made after the crisis.

The company started promoting its natural gas liquids—condensate and commodities like propane and butane, which are byproducts of gas production. It even talked up its remaining oil production, all while trying to calm investors by reminding them it had hedged a large chunk of its natural gas output around US$6 through 2012.

Eresman also went hunting for joint ventures, hoping to accelerate development of Encana’s reserves in the Montney Formation in northeast British Columbia while splitting the development costs. He snagged a big one: PetroChina bought half a project for $5.4 billion. At the time, Chinese interest in Canadian energy seemed limitless. But a few months later, the deal fell apart because of a disagreement on its structure.

With writedowns piling up—including a US$4.7-billion impairment charge in 2012—Encana finally struck a $2.9-billion joint venture with Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp. to develop a massive field in Western Canada. Then PetroChina came back at the end of 2012, paying $2.2 billion for a 49.9% stake in a gas project in Alberta’s hot Duvernay Formation.

A month later, however, Eresman was gone, effective immediately. His so-called retirement at age 54 was announced late on a Friday. The company later said he was “fatigued.”

Open this photo in gallery:

In the early months of 2013, Calgary was rife with rumours about who would take the reins at Encana. The wrong boss could push the company into the hands of a foreign buyer, as had just happened with struggling oil producer Nexen Inc., which was snapped up by the Chinese.

The search for Eresman’s successor was led by Clayton Woitas, an oil patch veteran and Encana director who stepped in as interim CEO. By June 2013, he and the board had decided on an oilman with no emotional attachment to Encana’s history—one who could deliver a badly needed shakeup.

Doug Suttles wasn’t well-known in Canada, but he’d gained enormous profile in his previous role. As chief operating officer of BP Exploration & Production, he was the point person as BP struggled to stem the flow of crude gushing from the Macondo oil well into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Suttles’s first order of business was a four-month review to see which of Encana’s assets could be kept and which could be sold off. He ended up chopping 27 operating areas down to five to accelerate the shift to oil and gas liquids. He also slashed 800 jobs—about 20% of the company’s workforce—including several top executives; closed its office in Texas; and reduced the company’s dividend by more than half. “I remember early on asking him what had been the secret, if you will, to his success,” says McRitchie, “and he said, in a word, ‘focus.’”

Suttles also zeroed in on Encana’s royalty-free lands as an unexploited source of cash. Woitas—who’d replaced O’Brien as chair when Suttles took over—backed the idea of a royalty division that would see Encana essentially play landlord to other drillers and harvest the rent. Woitas knew the business well, being a proprietor of a similar company himself.

In 2014, Encana announced the $1.5-billion initial public offering of PrairieSky Royalty. A few months later, Encana sold off its remaining stake for $2.6 billion. PrairieSky also bought Range Royalty LP—of which Woitas was chair and CEO—for $699 million. (Woitas declined to comment for this story, as did Suttles and Ovintiv.)

The changes kept coming. In the same year, Encana paid US$3.1 billion for a position in the red-hot Eagle Ford shale fields in Texas, then spent another US$5.9 billion in cash for Athlon Energy, giving it a sizable stake in the state’s oil-rich Permian Basin. To cover the cost of the deals, Suttles put the PrairieSky proceeds to work, and also unloaded infrastructure assets such as gas plants and other non-core properties. The sell-off included its Jonah natural gas assets in Wyoming for US$1.8 billion; last year, the company that bought them defaulted on its debt and had to be restructured.

Open this photo in gallery:

The Globe and Mail

In theory, Suttles’s heavy bet on oil—the commodity Encana had all but abandoned five years earlier—made sense. But the timing was unfortunate. In late 2014, OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia decided it was done with reducing its own output to prop up world oil prices, while other countries, notably the U.S. and Canada, pumped full out. The Saudis cranked open their taps, and the price of West Texas Intermediate oil tumbled from US$105 a barrel in June 2014 to US$53 by the start of 2015. By the end of the year, it hovered below US$40.

Encana and its peers dealt with the “lower for longer” era by slashing capital spending, laying off staff and issuing stock to keep debt ratios in check. By mid-2016, Encana’s share price, which had been hammered during the worst of the oil-price rout, began to recover thanks to internal austerity, along with the company’s focus on its Permian and Eagle Ford assets in the U.S. and its Montney and Duvernay plays in Canada.

That is, until late 2018, when Suttles surprised investors with the US$5.5-billion acquisition of Newfield Exploration. The deal provided an entry into what had been seen as a promising shale play in Oklahoma, but the fervour had already started to fade by the time Encana arrived. The takeover also increased Encana’s debt (again) because Newfield had US$2.2 billion in net debt on its books.

To Encana’s credit, the deal prompted multiple debt-rating agencies to upgrade its credit profile, expecting that the additional geographic diversification and heavier skew to oil would help its balance sheet. But many shareholders felt blindsided, and the stock tumbled by more than 12% on the day of the deal. It has yet to recover.

At the same time, Suttles’s compensation was becoming an issue. From the time he took over to the end of 2020, Encana’s stock lost more than 80% of its value. Yet, Suttles was paid US$92 million over the same period (though some of his shares and options have lost value as the stock price dropped).

With investors losing hope, Encana floated the idea of relocating to the U.S. Suttles had already done it himself. In March 2018, the CEO informed Encana staff he was moving to Denver, where the company had an office, citing personal reasons. Half its employees were already based in the U.S. anyway. When Encana was asked if this portended something bigger, officials were adamant a full-blown relocation wasn’t in the cards. “The answer to that is, absolutely not,” a spokesperson said at the time. “We’re a Canadian company. We’re headquartered in Calgary. This decision doesn’t change that in any way.”

A year and a half later, Suttles went for it—and tacked on the name change for good measure. Executives explained that, as a Canadian-based company, Encana was missing out on much of the passive shareholding its U.S. peers were enjoying, and that put pressure on the share price. Suttles said the company’s entry into a host of new stock indexes, such as the S&P MidCap 400, would mean US$1 billion in new investment as the shares got scooped up into exchange-traded funds.

Some Canadian shareholders, including Letko Brosseau & Associates, which held 4% of the stock, raised a fuss, saying the company might actually lose Canadian investors. Nonetheless, shareholders approved the redomicile strategy. And Encana was no more.

So who killed Encana? Gwyn Morgan and David O’Brien—the company’s co-founders, once like brothers—are at odds.

“It all comes back to the Trudeau government’s policies,” says Morgan, an avowed conservative who can barely say the Prime Minister’s name without seething. He never quite articulates what the government could have done differently, but his argument generally suggests Liberal policies put a chill on investment dollars, sealing Encana’s fate.

O’Brien doesn’t buy it. A Montrealer and former corporate lawyer at Ogilvy Renault, he moved to Calgary in the late 1970s to become general counsel at Petro-Canada. “I tend to have a more pan-Canadian view of things, as opposed to an Alberta view. And I don’t think the government had anything to do with what happened to Encana, frankly,” he says. “I’m an investor in a couple of private oil companies, and of course the lack of market access has been an issue, but that was an issue that happened during the Conservative regime, as well.”

If anything, O’Brien says, government is the reason Encana had a fighting chance in the first place. When he and Morgan pitched the initial merger back in the early 2000s, they presented it as a merger of equals, with no premium paid to shareholders. It was a risky bet, particularly because a deep-pocketed foreign player could have easily picked off one or both of them. But they made their case in Ottawa, and the federal Liberals signalled the merger was off limits to foreigners.

As for the decision to turn Encana into a pure play, Morgan is adamant: If the company had kept its oil assets, “Encana would still be in Canada.”

Once again, O’Brien isn’t so sure. “That was the fatal mistake, in a sense—because commodities come and commodities go, and if you’re solely dependent on one, it hurts a lot.” But it’s only part of the story. “I’m not as convinced it would have made as big a change as you might think,” he says. “What happened to Encana happened to most energy companies. They got hit by a very substantial revision in energy prices, both in oil and in natural gas.” And it’s not as though one arm has performed dramatically better than the other. “Cenovus has been terrible. Encana has been terrible,” O’Brien says.

He puts the blame on the shale revolution—an unstoppable force that bowled over the industry. This was largely a technological disruption, no different than the way Facebook destroyed the ad business or Netflix killed movie rentals.

Of course, O’Brien is biased. He oversaw the split, whereas Morgan wanted nothing to do with it. But in Calgary, there’s some sympathy for O’Brien’s argument, because so many gas producers have been brought to their knees. Early this year, former natural gas powerhouses Arc Resources and Seven Generations merged to weather the storm. “I don’t think any of it really could have been prevented,” says Stacey McDonald, a former equity analyst who’s now a director at gas producer Birchcliff Energy. “A lot of it was a function of the massive transformational shift to horizontal drilling and the improvement in productivity from wells.”

This revolution has shaken Canada’s natural gas industry to its core. In 2018, the Alberta government commissioned three experts—former TransCanada CEO Hal Kvisle, former Canadian Energy Pipeline Association CEO Brenda Kenny and former Husky Energy exec Terrance Kutryk—to report on the future of the province’s producers. Their conclusion was grim. “Our dominant export market is now our primary competitor, and Western Canadian gas will struggle to retain, let alone grow, its market share within North America,” the panel warned. It’s a far cry from Morgan’s glory days, when Canadian oil and gas was the answer to energy independence for the West.

Yet over the past three years, the U.S. shale industry itself has been decimated, and numerous companies have filed for bankruptcy. While the supply is monumental, the fundamentals aren’t, because the wells decline so quickly. “It is so short-cycle,” says Robert Fitzmartyn, an equity analyst at Stifel FirstEnergy. “Thirty-five to 40% of your return is captured in your first year.” Drilling rights must also be negotiated with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of land owners, who grant short-term permits. In the Montney in B.C., meanwhile, “you can hold your land for far longer, on less capital invested, than in the United States.”

The problem for Ovintiv is that its current structure doesn’t allow for enduring a decade-long disruption. “They got seduced by the valuations of the pure play,” Fitzmartyn says. He contrasts this with Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL), Canada’s second-largest gas producer—which also has substantial oil sands production. Its stock is still 28% off its 2008 peak, but the company’s shares have returned to pre-COVID levels, and its dividend has increased by nearly 20% annually when compounded over 13 years.

“Canadian Natural was chasing us all the time,” Morgan says of Encana’s rival, headed by billionaire Murray Edwards. CNRL has been “battered and beat up but still came out relatively well, and I admire them for that. They are now the flagship Canadian company. And I’m glad somebody has at least picked up the flag.”

Owning oil assets isn’t the only way Encana could have diversified. The company also used to own pipelines, along with storage and gas plants, but sold those assets over many years for short-term financial gains. In-house, these assets might only generate returns of six to eight times annual cash flow, yet they can sell for 12 times cash flow—money that can be used to fund more gas production. McRitchie argues the straight math is too simplistic. “What are the intangibles, the insights you get from having that integrated business?” He also notes infrastructure assets are now some of the hottest in the entire energy sector. “They’ve become the dominant businesses,” he says, “because they’ve built and created this power over the exploration and production companies.”

Having these operations in-house helps a company control how much it drills. By owning refineries or pipelines, it isn’t wedded to long-term external contracts to supply oil or gas. Chasing these benefits, Cenovus announced a deal this past October to buy Husky Energy, adding sizable oil-refining capacity in Canada and the U.S., plus offshore operations off Canada’s east coast and in the South China Sea, as well as a network of gas stations.

As for the future of the company formerly known as Encana, in March Ovintiv sold its Eagle Ford assets—the ones Suttles spent US$3.1 billion to acquire in 2014—for US$880 million. Just a few weeks earlier, it let go of its Duvernay holdings in Alberta for US$263 million, cutting one more thread to Canada. Ovintiv’s stock has rallied in the past six months, but it’s coming off an abysmal low; at the end of March, the shares were worth less than a quarter of what they were trading for during the global financial crisis. Suttles has pledged to slash debt, and the company has promised to update its compensation policies following pressure from an activist investor.

Looking back now, splitting up may have been Encana’s original sin, but there’s no single culprit for its demise. Many of the worst decisions made by its leaders were arguably executed with the best of intentions, like Eresman’s bet on natural gas as a way to get ahead on sustainability. But the executives could only control so much. “The world changed dramatically around us,” says McRitchie, reflecting on Encana’s wild ride. The same could just as well happen to the new crop of clean energy companies that look unstoppable today. “Your strategy needs to be live,” he warns, “not entrenched.”

As for Morgan, he’s made some peace with the unravelling. “I knew they were ultimately going to go to the U.S.,” he admits. “I’ve always said: If you want to have your company move, make sure you hire an American CEO. The writing was on the wall.”

But there’s still something he’ll never get over, something so personal he just can’t shake: “Why would they get rid of the Encana name?”

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe