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Connacher CEO exits company after shakeup

File phot of Richard Gusella, president and CEOof Connacher Oil and Gas Limited.

Chris Bolin/chris bolin/The Globe and Mail

There's another shakeup in the top ranks of Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd. as the company announced Thursday that CEO Richard Gusella would leave, just a week after other key executives were ushered out.

The move comes after Mr. Gusella took on the additional responsibilities of president and interim chief operating officer last week, filling the roles after two executives departed.

While the company didn't provide a reason for Mr. Gusella's surprise exit from the company, investors have appeared unsettled by the major changes that had taken place while the CEO was at the reins.

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Shares of the company dropped 12 per cent on Jan. 4, the day Mr. Gusella announced the changes, though its price has since recovered.

At that time, Mr. Gusella said that president and chief operating officer Peter Sametz would no longer hold his position, as well as vice-president and chief financial officer Richard Kines, and Grant Ukrainetz, vice-president of corporate development.

Connacher has shifted two directors to handle daily operations of the company in the interim, serving as co-managing directors.

Colin Evans is the president of oil and gas consulting firm Evans & Co. Inc. while Kelly Ogle is the president and CEO of Trafina Energy Ltd.

The widespread changes in Connacher's executive offices come less than a month after the firm rejected an unsolicited takeover offer from an unnamed company. One of Connacher's biggest shareholders urged a sale.

Connacher has also said it has stopped looking for a partner to help develop its Great Divide oil sands joint venture in Alberta, mainly as a result of its improved fourth-quarter and 2012 outlooks.

The process is expected to remain suspended until mid-February when it receives an updated reserve report from GLJ Petroleum Consultants.

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Connacher initiated the Great Divide joint venture process in July, just prior to significant challenges for the capital markets and the onset of the European debt crisis.

During the suspension, Connacher said it would revisit the proposed development plan and joint venture structure, taking into account improved pricing and stronger financial results along with regulatory approval delays and higher costs.

Meanwhile, Connacher said preliminary information suggests the company will be posting strong results in its most recent quarter and expanding its previously announced capital budget for 2012.

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