(Updates with comment from CEO in third paragraph, analysts beginning in fifth paragraph.)
Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Anadarko Petroleum Corp., the largest U.S. independent oil and natural-gas producer by market value, named Chief Operating Officer Al Walker to take over as chief executive officer effective May 15.
Walker, 55, will replace Jim Hackett, who has served as CEO since December 2003, the company said in a statement today. Hackett, 58, will become executive chairman and retire in 2013.
“He’s been integral to a lot of the big decisions we’ve made, both strategically and tactically,” Hackett said of Walker today on a conference call with reporters.
Walker, who joined Anadarko in 2005, will assume leadership of a $43.8 billion company whose shares have nearly quadrupled in value under his predecessor as Anadarko expanded deepwater projects off the coast of Africa and in the Gulf of Mexico.
Hackett’s job is done, Subash Chandra, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. in New York, who rates the shares a “buy” and owns none, said today in a telephone interview.
“He took the helm of an organization that needed some work, and he very quickly put his stamp on it,” Chandra said.
Hackett bought Kerr-McGee Corp. for about $16.4 billion in 2006, adding fields in the Gulf. Today, Anadarko announced an oil and gas discovery offshore Sierra Leone and another successful well in the 2.6-million-acre gas concession off Mozambique, both projects spearheaded by Hackett.
‘Attractive Takeover Target’
Walker takes the helm of a company now viewed as “the most attractive takeover target in the industry” because of its overseas assets and Gulf of Mexico holdings, Fadel Gheit, a New York-based analyst for Oppenheimer & Co., who rates Anadarko “outperform” and owns none, said today in an interview. Exxon Mobil Corp. may covet the Gulf holdings, Gheit said.
Though the timing of Hackett’s announced departure was a surprise, Hackett was always viewed as a “change agent” brought in to transform Anadarko, Chandra said. “I don’t think he has a desire to be a career CEO.”
Gheit said Hackett may be eyeing a new career in politics.
“He told me 15 years ago he had no intention of retiring as CEO of an energy company,” Gheit said. “He has other things he wants to do -- public service, as he put it.”
Walker Board Election
Walker will stand for election to the board at the May 15 annual meeting, the company said. Walker previously served as president of Enex Resources Corp., a Houston-based oil and gas producer, and was a managing director at UBS AG.
“This is a good time for the transition to a long-planned succession, given the company’s strong exploration and operational success and robust portfolio for long-term growth,” Hackett said in the statement.
Anadarko fell 1.8 percent to $86.46 at 9:44 a.m. in New York. It has gained 13 percent this year.
Independent oil and gas producers don’t refine fuels or sell them at retail.
--With assistance from Edward Klump in Houston. Editors: Susan Warren, Steven Frank
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