Ex-Cheniere Executive Gentle Rejoins Souki at LNG VentureBy and
Former VP at company Souki helped found named Tellurian CEO
Gentle to invest $10 million, get 7 percent stake, Souki says
Meg Gentle, who was a key public figure for Cheniere Energy Inc. on its path to becoming the first exporter of U.S. shale gas, is reuniting with the company’s ousted CEO and founder Charif Souki at his latest venture.
Gentle, 42, was named president and chief executive officer of Tellurian Investments Inc., a firm established by Souki and former BG Group Plc executive Martin Houston to develop liquefied natural gas projects, according to a statement Wednesday. She will invest $10 million in the company for a stake of about 7 percent and will remain CEO after its merger with Magellan Petroleum Corp., a transaction expected to close in the fourth quarter, Souki said in an interview before the announcement.
"It was time for a change for Cheniere and for me," Gentle said in a telephone interview.
It’s a natural transition for Gentle, who worked for more than a decade with Souki at Cheniere, helping it usher in an era of U.S. shale gas exports. Last year, she was the second-highest paid executive at Cheniere after Souki, with total compensation reaching $18.6 million, according to a company filing. At Tellurian, Gentle faces the challenge of running an LNG company amid an expanding glut of the fuel worldwide.
Gentle said she wants to improve technology to lower costs, and she believes Tellurian’s project will come online at a time when LNG demand is more robust.
"We are challenging all of our contractors on what things can we change about the engineering and the construction," she said.
Souki described Gentle as an “incredibly talented executive,” who helped steer Cheniere through tough financial times when it was still developing its first liquefaction unit at the Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana. Gentle, who also will serve on Tellurian’s board of directors, said her skills are better suited to the startup.
"As Cheniere transitions into an operating company, I really felt my experience had better value in a company the size and at the same stage of development where Tellurian is," Gentle said.
Just two months before Cheniere exported its debut cargo of LNG in February, it terminated Souki in a dispute with the board and billionaire investor Carl Icahn over strategy. He teamed up with Houston shortly after to start Tellurian. Earlier this month, the company announced a merger with Magellan to gain a public listing and improve access to capital needed for its first LNG project. Souki said he will serve as non-executive chairman and Houston as executive vice chairman.
Tellurian plans to develop gas liquefaction and export projects along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The first, Driftwood LNG near Louisiana’s Calcasieu River, is expected to start up in 2022.
Cheniere disclosed Gentle’s departure in an Aug. 26 filing. She was most recently executive vice president of marketing.
Gentle “served a very important purpose at Cheniere for a very long time," said Skip Aylesworth, who oversees the Hennessy Gas Utility Fund.
On her departure from Cheniere, Gentle agreed not to solicit employees of the company for three months. That hasn’t stopped Souki from saying other former colleagues at Cheniere would be welcome.
"If they want to join me, they know they can at any time," Souki said.