Chesapeake Awards Stock Options to Retain Top Executives

Chesapeake Energy Corp. awarded bonuses in the form of 810,000 stock options to retain outgoing Chief Executive Officer Aubrey McClendon’s leadership team at the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer.

The retention bonuses for Chief Financial Officer Domenic Dell’Osso, Chief Operating Officer Steve Dixon and Martha Burger, the human resources director, will vest one-third each in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake said in a filing today.

The options have an exercise price equal to the close of Chesapeake shares on Jan. 29, when the board approved the awards, according to the filing. The stock closed at $18.97 that day.

Dell’Osso received 300,000 options, the company said. Dixon and Burger received 360,000 and 150,000, respectively. The options are subject to accelerated vesting in the case of termination without cause, though not for retirement or voluntary resignation.

McClendon, 53, last week agreed to resign by April 1 from the company he co-founded in 1989. McClendon fell from grace with analysts and investors such as billionaire Carl Icahn after revelations that he used personal stakes in thousands of company-owned wells as collateral for private loans. No successor CEO has been named.

Chesapeake shares have increased 6 percent since McClendon’s resignation was announced on Jan. 29, and closed in New York today at $20.11. The shares tumbled 25 percent in 2012.

McClendon was displaced as chairman in June and four new directors were elected.

Exxon Mobil Corp. is the largest U.S. gas producer.

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