UPDATE 1-Top Chesapeake shareholder to take more active role

Wed May 2, 2012 3:55pm EDT

May 2 (Reuters) - Southeastern Asset Management, the largest shareholder in Chesapeake Energy Corp, revealed it will take a more active role in the affairs of the natural gas company, which has been buffeted by revelations about its chief executive's business dealings.

In a Wednesday regulatory filing, Southeastern, led by the prominent investor Mason Hawkins, said it has converted its 13.6 percent stake in Chesapeake to "active" from "passive."

Southeastern also said it intends to open discussions with Chesapeake's management, board and third parties.

Activist investors such as Southeastern often demand changes at public companies, which could involve changes in management or business practices.

Last month, Reuters reported that Chesapeake Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon had pledged his interests in many Chesapeake wells as collateral for more than $1.1 billion of personal loans.

That prompted conflict-of-interest concerns among investors, who feared that McClendon might have obtained more favorable loan terms in exchange for allowing his lenders to do other business with the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-based company.

On Tuesday, Chesapeake said that McClendon will give up his role as chairman, while retaining the chief executive's job. It also said it will end the program allowing McClendon to invest in its wells in June 2014, or 18 months earlier than originally planned.

In the last couple of days, several traders who have been shorting Chesapeake's stock said they were unmoved by Chesapeake's announced plans to improve corporate governance and end the well program.

Earlier on Wednesday, McClendon said he was "deeply sorry" for the turmoil caused by his personal financial dealings. Chesapeake shares were down 14 percent at $16.85 shortly before the close of trading on Wednesday.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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