A big month for Chesapeake Energy …

It’s been busy over at Chesapeake Energy (CHK), the winner last year of our annual worst footnote of the year contest: Teaming up with the Chinese, losing a chief financial officer (but gaining a joint-venture president), and even winning the battle of the corporate bands.

Foremost, of course, is the news that Cnooc Ltd., the Chinese state-controlled oil giant, has teamed up with Chesapeake in Texas, taking a 33% ($1.1 billion) stake in a potential oil and gas shale deposit there. Liam Denning at The Wall Street Journal reported that Cnooc will “will largely fund the cost of developing reserves that will enhance America’s energy security,” and might just give the Russians hives at the same time. But don’t expect a kerfuffle of the sort that occurred when Cnooc tried to buy Unocal a few years back, Steve LeVine says over at Foreign Policy magazine’s website. (Presumably, Chesapeake will listen more closely to its new business partner than it has to its own shareholders of late.)

Then the company announced that its CFO, Marcus C. Rowland, who had been in charge of the company’s books since 1993, left, according to an 8-K filed yesterday (and earlier press release). But don’t worry — he’s not going far. He’s taking the post of a “well stimulation” company called Frac Tech Services LLC. One of its big shareholders? Chesapeake Energy, of course, which owns 26% of the Cisco, Texas, company.

Rowland isn’t leaving empty-handed, the company notes in the 8-K. He has to give up $4.8 million from installments in the company’s long-term incentive plan, but the company is accelerating the vesting on 400,750 shares of restricted stock. At today’s price of $22.88, that’s a cool $9.2 million. In May, he’ll also get a nice check for $4 million from his accumulated deferred-compensation account with the company, including contributions from Chesapeake that wouldn’t have vested yet under other circumstances. (It’s a pretty sweet plan, to judge from the company’s proxy: The company seems to match contributions dollar for dollar, in addition to crediting the accounts with investment returns.)

All in all, not bad given that, in July, the company restated chunks of the 10-Q it had filed on March 31, for a reasonably technical accounting goof. (In effect, the company took the effect of an accounting change for off-balance-sheet entities and applied it to net income instead of to retained earnings. See the amended 10-Q for details.)

As if that weren’t enough, the company also appointed a new director, back on October 6: Kathleen Eisbrenner, who’s helping to establish a liquified natural gas company, according to Chesapeake’s press release. But buried in that same 8-K filing was the exciting announcement that Shaleplay, the company’s in-house band, had won Fortune magazine’s 10th Annual Battle of the Corporate Bands, beating out Deloitte Consulting, GE Aviation and others.

Band members include a human-resources training supervisor, a couple communications-department folks, and a software developer, Chesapeake said in its October 5 press release:

“The band’s name is derived from two words frequently used in the energy exploration industry. ‘Shale’ is a prevalent type of rock that can be found from the earth’s surface to tens of thousands of feet deep, often containing substantial recoverable volumes of natural gas and oil. ‘Play’ is industry jargon for a productive or potentially productive area for energy development.”

“Now that Shaleplay is officially the best corporate band in America, they plan to continue playing together and hope to play in shows around Oklahoma City.”

And hey, maybe they can get an invitation to tour China.


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