Exclusive: Shale oil producer Continental Resources names Lawler as CEO

The Continental Resources office building is seen in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma September 22, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Sisney /File Photo

Dec 6 (Reuters) - U.S. shale oil and gas producer Continental Resources said on Tuesday it named operating chief Doug Lawler as its new chief executive officer effective next month.

Lawler, 56, was CEO at shale gas producer Chesapeake Energy (CHK.O) for eight years before joining Continental in February. He will step into his new role upon the retirement of current CEO William Berry.

Oklahoma City-based Continental is among the 10 largest U.S. independent oil and gas shale producers and the largest in North Dakota's Bakken shale. Founder and Chairman Harold Hamm took the company private last month in a deal that valued the business at about $27 billion.

Shareholders have been pressuring many public energy producers to focus on returns over growth. In a letter to employees detailing the go-private offer in June, Hamm said investors have curbed growth in the industry, noting private companies have more freedom to operate.

"What is great is that the company can grow and create value and energy for the country and world. Our contributing part in that is no longer limited by those shackles," Lawler told Reuters, adding he would remain focused on financial discipline.

Continental reported a profit of $2.82 billion for the nine months ended Sept. 30 on a 25% increase in oil production compared to the same period in 2021. It produced some 396,288 barrels of oil and gas per day in the first nine months this year.

Lawler ran Chesapeake Energy for eight years, including through a bankruptcy process that it completed in 2021. He whittled away Chesapeake's $13 billion in debt but also bet on shale oil assets just ahead of a price crash. Chesapeake recently put those properties up for sale.

More deal-making is not out of the question at Continental as the company looks to expand production, Lawler said. Since March, the company has bought production operations in Wyoming and Texas.

"There are opportunities for growth not only in existing assets, but in continued exploration and continued M&A," he said.

Reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.