Range Resources CEO Pinkerton to Step Down amid Transition Plan

(Dow Jones Newswires), June 27, 2011

Range Resources Chief Executive John H. Pinkerton will step down and be succeeded by the natural-gas company's president and chief operating officer, Jeffrey L. Ventura, part of a company shift in focus to the Marcellus shale region in Pennsylvania.

The process of passing the CEO responsibilities to Ventura "has been underway for some time," said Pinkerton, who will stay on as executive chairman. "Having worked side by side with Jeff for eight years, I have great confidence that he will successfully lead Range for the benefit of all our stakeholders."

The company last month sold its Barnett shale properties in Texas for about $900 million to focus on developing its Marcellus shales operations. It plans to more than double its production there by year's end. Range's Marcellus fields are more productive than some of the company's holdings in other areas and are richer in natural-gas liquids, which sell at a higher price than dry gas.

Brian Gamble, an analyst with Simmons & Co., said the transition has been in the works "for some time" and "should not come as a surprise. Range, Gamble wrote in a client note, "should not miss a beat during this transition and is left in very capable hands."

The company will be relying on Ventura's technical and engineering skills as Pinkerton focuses on broader policy issues, a company spokesman said.

Ventura, 53 years old and a longtime industry veteran, will focus on day-to-day operations. He joined Range in 2003 and was elected to the board in 2005.

Pinkerton, 57, joined the company in 1990 and has been CEO since 1992. He was named chairman in 2005.

The moves are effective Jan. 1.

Range has posted a string of losses in recent quarters amid various charges and write-downs. The company has been selling non-core properties in recent years, using proceeds to develop areas with higher returns.

The company in April reported that it swung to a first-quarter loss on mark-to-market derivative losses and higher charges, while adjusted results topped analysts' expectations as higher production offset a decline in realized prices.

The leadership transition "may dampen near-term merger and acquisition expectations" on Wall Street, which "ogles Range's asset base versus capitalization," analysts with Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. said. "But high-return assets are always desirable especially given Range's Marcellus position," the analysts wrote in a client note.

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