Stock and Awe: Short stops atop oil companies
Some CEOs’ tenures have been counted in days
by Alberta Venture Staff
As Trooper’s lead singer Ramon McGuire might say, he was there for a good time, not a long time. Less than five months after he was appointed president of Athabasca Oil, Bryan Gould was relieved of his position this past May. But the good people at the Guinness Book of World Records won’t be in touch, given that Gould didn’t come close to breaking the record for the shortest tenure in a corner office.
Take Jack Schanck, the former president and CEO of Sonde Resources and a geologist with 35 years of experience in the energy sector. He was appointed chairman of Penn West Petroleum on Thursday, May 2, replacing longtime chair (and serial director) John Brussa. But by the following Monday, Schanck was replaced, this time by former Suncor CEO Rick George. In a press release, the company described Schanck’s tenure as an “interim” one, despite the fact that no such term could be found on the release heralding his appointment.
While Schanck lasted only a few days, the record for the shortest tenure at the top goes to Bill Johnson, former CEO of Progress Energy (not to be confused with Progress Energy Canada), who lasted all of one day in his job, when Progress and Duke Energy merged in July 2012. On July 2, when the merger went into effect, so too did the three-year agreement Johnson signed to lead the combined companies. Then at midnight on July 3, he quit – and pocketed exit payments worth more than $44 million, including $7.4 million in severance, a $1.4 million cash bonus, accelerated vesting of stock options and even a $30,000 reimbursement for his relocations expenses. You don’t want to calculate the hourly rate on that.
Johnson’s tenure was spectacularly short – and grotesquely overpaid. But while he’s something of an extreme case he’s not necessarily an exception. Research from the U.S. shows that CEOs stick around for an average of 6.6 years, compared to 8.1 years a decade ago. And if they’re external hires, that figure drops even further to 4.1 years.