Exxon Mobil and Houston-based Cheniere Energy are both reporting major changes in leadership, while Royal Dutch Shell is warning another round of job cuts is on the way. The developments come as oil and natural gas prices continue to dig through the floor.
Darren Woods will take over as Exxon Mobil's president, effective January 1, 2016. The promotion makes the 50-year-old Woods the heir apparent of CEO and chairman Rex Tillerson.
"Darren Woods is a Texas A&M alum, electrical engineer," says Michelle Foss, chief energy economist at the University of Texas' Bureau of Economic Geology. "He's been always a downstream guy — refining, petrochemicals. The company historically recruits from its downstream businesses, which from time to time are good but most of the time have very thin margins."
Tillerson is expected to retire as Exxon's chief by 2017.
Cheneire Energy is replacing its chairman, president, and CEO Charif Souki. Souki is co-founder of the Houston-based liquefied natural gas company. Activist investor Carl Icahn has built up his stake in Cheniere recently. The company has added two of Icahn's affiliates to its board.
"You need people who can manage companies through all of this stuff, make sure that the company can prove that it can demonstrate revenue through its LNG sales, and hopefully have a buyer come in who is interested in that," Foss says.
Cheniere named board member Neal Shear as interim president and CEO and appointed board member Andrea Botta as chairman. The company says it will immediately begin the search for a permanent CEO.
Meanwhile, Shell says it will cut 2,800 jobs from its global workforce, once it completes its takeover of rival BG Group in 2016.
"I think they're going to have to go much deeper than this," Foss says. "They made the strategic move on BG very early in this cycle. Values have continued to change as the year has progressed, on the low side." The latest layoffs bring the total number of staff and contractor job cuts tied to the merger to 10,300.