The Great Chesapeake Massacre III: Lawler Fires Another 400 People

2/2/18 Update: Have we been unfair in our characterization of Doug Lawler? Perhaps. We don’t know Doug–have never met him. He started firing masses of people at Chessy before the downturn hit. He arguably inherited a troubled company. We intensely dislike Carl Ichan and other corporate raiders, so we attributed Doug’s actions to Carl’s influence. MDN received a very nice note from a subscriber who personally knows Doug Lawler and has a different perspective to offer, which we’re happy to pass along. He said: “Jim, regarding your article on CHK, Doug Lawler probably learned a lot from Carl Icahn, but knowing Doug the way I do, I can assure you it hurt him to release people at his home office or other areas of operations. He was left with a mess and will take him years to clean it up. Hopefully with oil & gas prices stabilizing and going up, CHK will become profitable.” We thank our subscriber for sending that along!

Just like those 80s slasher movies that did so well at the box office that studios kept making more of them (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc.), Doug “the ax” Lawler, CEO of Chesapeake Energy, is back with part III of mass firings at the company. In October 2013 when Lawler was newly appointed as CEO (by Chesapeake’s board, which was under the influence of corporate raider Carl Ichan), he swung his ax and fired 800 people in one gory episode, promising that was the last of it (see The Great Chesapeake Massacre: Lawler Fires 800 People in One Day). It worked so well the first time, Lawler came back with a sequel two years later (see The Great Chesapeake Massacre II: Lawler Fires Another 740 People). It’s now a little over two years since the sequel, and Lawler is back for a third time, firing another round of people–400 this time, 13% of the workforce. The latest victims worked at HQ in Oklahoma City. When corporate raiders take control of a company, as Icahn did at Chesapeake, they pressure management to fire people and sell assets–in a bid to make the stock price jump higher so they can sell their shares of stock at a higher price, pocketing the profit. It’s disgusting to ruin people’s lives and pretend it’s “just business.” At any rate, Icahn is long gone from Chessy, but Lawler learned his lessons well by sitting at the feet of the master. This is rich: Lawler said because the company has sold so many of its assets, it no longer needs the people. Kind of a vicious cycle. Fire people, sell assets. Fire more people, sell more assets. Where does it end? Pretty soon Lawler will be able to cater the company’s office Christmas party with a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut…

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