Chesapeake, Murphy name new leaders
6/21/12 4:56 PM ET (MarketWatch)
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Chesapeake Energy named a new chairman and four board members while Murphy Oil unexpectedly switched chief executive officers. Meanwhile, energy stocks fell back sharply on Thursday.
At the closing bell, Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) lost 3.4% and Chevron Corp. (CVX) declined 3.5%. The two oil majors are components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average
, which fell 251 points.
Putting additional pressure on energy stocks, crude oil futures fell 2.3% to trade below $80 a barrel for the first time in eight months. See Futures Movers for more on oil prices.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK) declined 4.8% after the company named Archie Dunham, 73, as its new independent, non-executive chairman. Dunham replaces Aubrey McClendon, the company's co-founder, who has become mired in controversy. McClendon remains chief executive.
Dunham formerly served as chairman of ConocoPhillips(COP) and as chief executive officer of Conoco. The board also appointed four new directors, including three proposed by Southeastern Asset Management, its largest shareholder, and one by Carl Icahn, the company's second-largest shareholder.
The board's audit committee is continuing its investigation into private loans made to McClendon using his stakes in company-owned wells as collateral.
Murphy Oil Corp. (MUR) dropped 4.3%. Wall Street analysts said the departure of David Wood as chief executive officer took them by surprise. Wood was with the company for 17 years and hadn't signaled any plans to step down, said analysts at Houston research firm Tudor Pickering Holt.
Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Sankey said Wood's departure came as a shock.
At a May 9 meeting with analysts, Wood gave no indication that he might be quitting.
"There has clearly been some kind of internal issue," Sankey said. Sankey said company officials told analysts that no immediate operational problem now faces the company.
Late Wednesday, Murphy Oil named Executive Vice President Steve Cosse as CEO.
The broad energy sector lost ground on Thursday, including a drop of nearly 8% by Cameron International(CAM)
(CAM) (CAM) Hess Corp. (HES) , Noble Corp. (NE) and Helmerich & Payne(HP) dropped more than 7% each.
The Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund(XLE) , which tracks energy stocks in the S&P 500, fell 4.1%.
Among the major benchmarks in the energy sector, the NYSE Arca Oil Index (XOI) lost 4.2%, the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index (XNG) fell 3.7% and the Philadelphia Oil Service Index (OSX) declined 5.4%.