ConocoPhillips Shakes Up Top Management Team

HOUSTON -- ConocoPhillips announced its Chief Operating Officer John Carrig will retire next year, amid a larger shake-up of the company's top management, according to a report by Dow Jones.

Carrig, widely considered the heir apparent of Chief Executive Jim Mulva, will step down in February. The Houston-based oil giant will eliminate the position of COO, a spokeswoman said. Chief Financial Officer Sig Cornelius, 56, also will retire at the end of the year and be replaced by Jeff Sheets, formerly senior vice president for commercial and planning and strategy.

ConocoPhillips also said it is bringing in two new executives from its larger peers. Alan Hirshberg, who led Exxon's global deepwater and Africa operations, will become senior vice president for planning and strategy. Greg Garland, the former head of the Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., was named senior vice president for exploration and production in the Americas.

Both executives will report directly to Mulva.

ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil company by market value after Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. had engaged in aggressive deal-making during the energy boom and found itself over-extended when the recession struck. Now it's in the midst of a major corporate turnaround, selling assets and curbing capital costs as it seeks to reduce debt and become more profitable, according to the Dow Jones report.

Company spokeswoman Cathy Cram said the executive reshuffling has been in the works for a year, and the changes are "based on the needs of ConocoPhillips going forward."

Mulva, 64, is approaching retirement age, but has said he intends to stay at Conoco's helm for the next several years. Some expect the oil company to start drawing out a clear succession plan in the near term – possibly the next 12 to 15 months.

Phil Weiss, a New York-based analyst with Argus Research, said the successor will likely be picked from the newly appointed executives, who come in with oil industry-specific expertise, as opposed to Carrig, 58, who had previously been CFO.

"There's times when it's okay to bring somebody with a financial background, but it's the right time for Conoco to bring somebody with operating experience," Weiss said.

The company declined to comment on Mulva's successor.

Carrig's departure, however, creates some uncertainty about the succession plan and could signal further changes in strategy, said Allen Good, an analyst with Morningstar Inc. "I'm not too sure that investors should get too excited about management changes at this point," he said.

Conoco has seen additional turnover in its top ranks recently. Last year, its exploration and production chief Jim Gallogly left to become CEO of LyondellBasell Industries. The company appointed Ryan M. Lance and Kevin O. Meyers to take over his responsibilities. Lance and Meyers will remain in their current roles, Conoco told Dow Jones.

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