On Tuesday, in a move that sent its share price skyrocketing, No. 2 U.S. natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK ) broke the news that controversial CEO Aubrey McClendon will retire.
The chairman and chief executive officer of Chesapeake up until 2012, when he gave up the first title, McClendon plans to retire from the company on April 1. In the interim, he will remain CEO and retain his seat on the board, pending the choice of a replacement.
In a statement, Chesapeake's Board of Directors made a point of noting that McClendon's "retirement" is not related to any finding that he has acted improperly. To the contrary, it said: "The Board's extensive review to date has not revealed improper conduct by Mr. McClendon. The Board and Mr. McClendon's decision to commence a search for a new leader is not related to the Board's pending review of his financing arrangements and other matters."
Nevertheless, go he will. Over the next two months, McClendon will begin a "transition" period, gradually handing off "certain day-to-day management responsibilities" to company Chief Operating Officer Steven C. Dixon and Chief Financial Officer Domenic J. Dell'Osso Jr., before finally handing his whole portfolio of responsibilities over to Chesapeake's new boss.
Upon retirement, McClendon is expected to receive a substantial compensation package. He will also continue to own "interests in certain of the company's wells in connection with the Founder Well Participation Program, which will terminate on June 30, 2014."