Energy Ink

Another day, another CEO down in the oil patch

January 13, 2012

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“Marvin has made a valuable contribution to Nexen during his 13 years with the company.”

That was how Nexen Inc. board chairman Francis Saville described Marvin Romanow, who had served as the company’s president and CEO since 2009, in a press release issued by the company on January 9.  But despite Marvin’s “valuable contributions”,  it wasn’t enough for him to keep his job.

It turns out Romanow’s ouster (it appears he didn’t jump, but was pushed) was just the start to a hectic week of corporate shuffling in downtown Calgary. On Thursday, Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd. announced chief executive Richard Gusella had “relinquished” his roles as chairman, CEO, president and interim chief operating officer with the company. And today, Harvest Operations Corp. announced that John Zahary has resigned as the company’s president and CEO.

Why Romanow is no longer employed by Nexen isn’t hard to figure, and we’ve written about the company’s struggles before. As for Connacher and Gusella, we blogged about this subject earlier today. But the departure of Zahary is interesting. So, too, is the board’s decision to replace Zahary with Myunghuhn Yi. Harvest, industry watchers remember, was bought by the Korean National Oil Corporation (KNOC) for $4.1 billion in 2009 and Yi is a KNOC company man.

Maybe the plan all along was for Zahary to eventually step aside and let a KNOC executive take over the reins of the company. But in this story on Asian-Canadian joint ventures that appeared in the September issue of the magazine, Zahary didn’t sound like he was planning to go anywhere for a while. “KNOC has been sensitive to the idiosyncrasies of the Canadian oil industry,” he said at the time.

But after a two year apprenticeship, the resignation of Zahary signals that KNOC is ready to take complete control of Harvest. It also mirrors what’s been going on recently with Sinopec’s acquiring Daylight Energy Ltd. and Petrochina’s deal with Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. to buy the remaining 40 per cent interest in the MacKay River oil sands project. We’ve reached a new phase in the Asian investment story, one where these state-owned companies are no longer content to defer to their Canadian partners.

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