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Chesapeake Energy lays off some of its PR staff

The corporate restructuring that began earlier this month at Chesapeake Energy has already led to layoffs among the company's West Virginia public relations staff. 

Multiple sources have confirmed to the Daily Mail that at least four members of the company's West Virginia community outreach group were laid off Aug. 14.

They include Phil Pfister (of World's Strongest Man fame), Jacque Bland and Scott Rotruck, who worked out of the firm's Morgantown office.

Maribeth Anderson, who also does government relations and lobbyist work for the company, was one of the survivors of the recent round of layoffs. She is now apparently one of the company's few, if only, remaining public relations contacts in the state.

Anderson did not return requests for comment about the restructuring this week.

The layoffs follow an executive-level shakeup that began in early August.

During an Aug. 1 earnings conference call, new Chesapeake chief executive Doug Lawler, who joined the company from Anadarko Petroleum in June, said he was preparing to execute a strategy that would help Chesapeake become a "more focused and efficient" company.

"Chesapeake is at a key juncture in its history, and we have a laser focus on positioning the company to execute more competitively," Lawler said at the time.

Eleven days later, Lawler shook up the company's executive suite.

Four executives who served as top lieutenants to former CEO Aubrey McClendon -- including chief operating officer Steve Dixon, senior vice president Steve Miller, executive vice president Jeff Fisher and head of human resources Martha Burger -- were out as of Aug. 12, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal said Lawler sent an email to employees thanking the four for their service and assuring employees the company's restructuring "will position Chesapeake to be more competitive and focused."

Two days later, pink slips hit the company's community outreach division.

Pittsburgh-based Gas Business Briefing, an online industry news hub, reported about 28 community outreach employees in the Appalachian Basin, which includes West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, were told their services were no longer needed Aug. 14.

Gas Business Briefing said the total number of employees laid off nationwide was undetermined but noted, "The cleansing of nonessential personnel at Chesapeake Energy is picking up steam."

The Wall Street Journal summarized the company's recent problems, stating that under McClendon's leadership, Chesapeake habitually spent more cash than it brought in from its operations.

"The company's aggressive acquisitions and drilling made it the country's second-largest producer of natural gas after Exxon Mobil Corp.," the Journal reported.

"But a glut of gas sent prices tumbling to the lowest levels in a decade last year, eroding Chesapeake's revenues and prompting it to sell assets in 2012 to raise more than $11 billion to pay for its operations."

Lawler said in his recent conference call that the company was undergoing a comprehensive review to streamline its operations and identify non-core and poor performing assets that it can sell off.

He said that review and efforts to cut costs could continue into 2014.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.  


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