NEW YORK (
(CHK - Get Report)
on Tuesday said founder and CEO Aubrey McClendon will leave the company on April 1st due to philosophical differences.
Jim, a lot of analysts had predicted that this might happen, given the board shakeup. Were you surprised?
Well, Aubrey had been talking to a lot of people about a lot of different things. Now he's saying to me he retired. Obviously if he were speaking to a lot of different shareholders and this suddenly happens, it feels more like Vikram Pandit (former CEO) at
than it does feel like a gradual stepping away. That said, obviously there is a transition, so it wasn't like they told him to get the heck out. There were no ethics violations.
But I think this is important -- let's overlap this on
CEO Rich Kinder's decision to buy
. Aubrey had bet the company that natural gas and natural gas liquids would rise in price. It didn't happen. He borrowed a huge amount of money, made these giant bets ... Chesapeake is now the second-largest producer in the country. Just at the time when he leaves, Rich Kinder makes a gigantic bet on natural gas liquids and natural gas by buying his JV partner, Copano.
I think that Aubrey's departure will mark a bottom in natural gas liquids in this country. Natural gas liquids are used to make plastic. I think we're going to see a renaissance of building in the Louisiana area, taking advantage of all that's in the Eagle Ford and the Woodford (where Copano is) shale, and taking advantage of everything that Aubrey always believed would happen.
So what does this do for the strategy at Chesapeake? Do they stop acquiring and begin developing, given the coming increase in the price of natural gas?
They've been selling off assets. Now, one of the things Aubrey's prided himself on is that production hasn't dropped during the time they've been selling off properties. They have to continue to sell off properties to meet the cash flow. Now Carl Icahn's in there, maybe he can make something happen, but, look, if you want to take over a name, don't own Chesapeake. We own
(SWN - Get Report)
for Action Alerts Plus. It's a clean company. If someone wanted to be big in natural gas, that's a great play.
(EOG - Get Report)
is a giant in natural gas but mostly is an oil producer -- that's another one because Mark Papa, the CEO, is retiring. Don't buy Chesapeake on the takeover. Buy Chesapeake on a break-up, which will probably accelerate now that Aubrey is gone. Now Aubrey's going to be back.