ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil company, shook up its management team and hired two new senior executives as it announced that four of its top officers, including the president and finance chief, are retiring.
Alan Hirshberg, 49, formerly a vice president at Exxon Mobil Corp., is joining the company as a senior vice president for planning and strategy, Houston-based ConocoPhillips said today in a statement. Also joining the company is Greg Garland, 52, formerly head of ConocoPhillips’s chemicals joint venture with Chevron Corp., who will be senior vice president for exploration and production in the Americas.
ConocoPhillips is executing a two-year, $10 billion plan to sell assets as it also cancels refinery projects and works to sell its interest in Russia’s OAO Lukoil. The company had voids to fill after several previous executive departures, said Philip Weiss, an analyst with Argus Research. He said ConocoPhillips may name a chief executive officer to replace Jim Mulva in 12 to 18 months.
“Conoco’s had some hiccups along the way, and they’re trying to fix things and they had a number of people leave,” said Weiss, who has a “buy” rating on ConocoPhillips shares and owns none.
ConocoPhillips said the following executives are retiring from the company: President John Carrig; Chief Financial Officer Sigmund Cornelius; Stephen Brand, a senior vice president of technology; and Kevin Meyers, a senior vice president for exploration and production in the Americas. The departures are effective at the end of the year except for Carrig, who will leave at the end of February, ConocoPhillips said.
Weiss said he wasn’t “enthused” about the prospect of Carrig or Cornelius replacing Mulva, 64, as CEO because ConocoPhillips needs someone with more of an operational background. One of the executives in today’s news release may become CEO within a year and a half, Weiss said, and Mulva would remain chairman. Mulva may retire another 12 to 18 months after that, Weiss said.
Cathy Cram, a ConocoPhillips spokeswoman, said Mulva’s plan to stay for several years hasn’t changed. She declined to comment further on speculation about the timing of his departure or provide a complete list of ages for executives in today’s statement. The company has been working on a succession plan for more than a year to ensure a smooth leadership transition in the future, Cram said.
ConocoPhillips has had a number of departures in recent years, such as Gregory Goff, a senior vice president who left this year to become Tesoro Corp.’s CEO. In 2009, Jim Gallogly, executive vice president of exploration and production, quit to become CEO at LyondellBasell Industries. In 2007, Randy Limbacher, president of exploration and production in the Americas, decided to leave the company.
Jeff Sheets, who was a senior vice president for commercial and strategy at ConocoPhillips, will succeed Cornelius as chief financial officer, the company said. Willie Chiang, senior vice president for refining, marketing and transportation, also will be in charge of commercial business activities.
ConocoPhillips rose 91 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $59.70 as of 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock has climbed 17 percent this year.
Exxon Mobil and Chevron are the two largest U.S. oil companies.