Chesapeake slashes 10 percent of jobs as CEO cuts largesse

HOUSTON Tue Oct 8, 2013 5:15pm EDT

Chesapeake Energy Corporation's 50 acre campus is seen in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Steve Sisney

Chesapeake Energy Corporation's 50 acre campus is seen in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 17, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Steve Sisney

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HOUSTON (Reuters) - Chesapeake Energy Corp has slashed its workforce by 1,200 jobs this year, the country's second-largest natural gas producer said on Tuesday, and the cutting has accelerated under new chief executive Doug Lawler.

Lawler became CEO in June, promising to relentlessly control costs to lift the company's profits after the ouster in April of the company's free-spending co-founder, Aubrey McClendon.

If McClendon was known for lavish spending on perks for employees and his voracious appetite for acquiring oil and gas properties in U.S. shale basins, Lawler is building a reputation for focusing the country's No. 2 producer of natural gas on its core business.

"You had too much land and you had too many people," said a source close to the company's board of directors. "Those things had to be fixed."

The company's size has been reduced by 10 percent so far this year, and its stock price has risen by 20 percent since Lawler took over.

Lawler's broad review that aims to shrink the oil and gas company was slated to conclude by November 1.

Chesapeake has sold about $4 billion in assets this year in addition to trimming jobs.

Internal records seen by Reuters show that the company's payroll in 2012 included a meteorologist who made $350,000 in salary, three chaplains, seven chefs, two company archivists, a fitness center staff of 15 people and a gardener, along with the hundreds of geologists and petroleum engineers normally needed to run an oil and gas business.

A company chaplain reached at home said he no longer works for Chesapeake. No one answers the phone at the Chicago office for Chesapeake Weather, and its website has been taken down.

(Reporting By Anna Driver; Editing by Terry Wade and Ken Wills)

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