Hess CEO Reflects on Challenging Year

NEW YORK -- In the past 12 months, CEO John Hess of Hess Corp. faced opposition from hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. and subsequently lost his position as the company’s chairman.

Now, according to a report by the The Wall Street Journal, for the first time since taking the reins of the oil giant in 1995, Hess finds himself facing a board nearly wiped clean of longtime allies.

In addition to putting its retail assets on the sale's block, the oil giant has sold off more than $7.8 billion in businesses over the past year on its way to becoming a much smaller company, with a $25-billion market capitalization.

In his first interview since the board moves in May, Hess told The Wall Street Journal that repositioning Hess Corp. to a pure-play exploration and production (E&P) company is the right strategy for this time. Despite the board battle and new leadership, he said he does not feel any more pressure to perform.

"It hasn't changed. I've always had a sense of urgency, and I will continue to have a sense of urgency," Hess said.

Hess also noted that he learned some lessons from the outside challenge to the company. "I was focused on our transformation to a pure-play exploration and production company, to running the business and making sure we executed our plan. I could have done a better job communicating our plan to our shareholders, engaging them and also soliciting their feedback," he explained.

"As much as we had a sense of urgency about executing our plan, the events of 2013 gave us a laser-like focus on carrying out that plan. Our shareholders are benefiting from our plan and are generally pleased.

Faced with missed Wall Street earnings expectations for the past two quarters, Hess explained the company went through a transition period as it moved toward a pure-play E&P.

As for advice for other executives that may find themselves in a similar position, he said they should have the right strategic plan in place and stress-test it.

"It is also equally important to make sure you communicate your plan to your constituents, especially your shareholders, and make sure they understand it, that they have had the chance to give you feedback," Hess added.


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