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Harold Hamm’s Continental Resources Hires Chesapeake Energy’s GC

June 18, 2021, 6:16 PM

A week after stepping down as Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s top lawyer, James Webb has a new role as general counsel for Continental Resources Inc., an oil and gas company controlled by billionaire Harold Hamm.

Continental, whose founder and chairman Hamm has recently indicated a willingness to do deals, announced June 16 the retirement of its general counsel, chief risk officer, and corporate secretary Eric Eissenstat. Webb will succeed Eissenstat as Continental’s legal and risk chief Sept. 1, the company said.

“It has been a true honor to serve Continental for the last three decades,” Eissenstat said in a statement. “Jim Webb is an excellent choice as general counsel moving forward; the company will be in great hands.”

Webb was one of several C-suite executives at Chesapeake to voluntarily step down this month from the Oklahoma City-based oil and gas producer, which emerged from bankruptcy proceedings earlier this year after shedding $7 billion in debt.

Chesapeake, once the epitome of America’s shale boom, has like other U.S. companies in the space fallen on leaner times in recent years.

The statement from Oklahoma City-based Continental noted that Eissenstat, a former longtime partner at local litigation boutique Fellers, Snider, Blankenship, Bailey & Tippens, is leaving the company to “return to private practice where he will work on access to justice and community service matters.”

Continental hired Eissenstat as its general counsel in 2010—he had previously spent more than 27 years at Fellers Snider—and he will continue to advise the company.

“Eric has been providing unmatched legal counsel to Continental since the late 1980s when he was in private practice,” said a statement from Hamm, who stepped down as Continental’s CEO last year. “He is a valued advisor and friend. We look forward to continuing our working relationship with Eric as he returns to private practice.”

Eissenstat currently owns nearly $8.4 million in Continental stock, according to Bloomberg data. Securities filings show that he’s sold off more than $1 million in company stock so far this year. Eissenstat was not one of Continental’s top five highest-paid executives in 2020, per the company’s most recent proxy statement.

Webb, however, received more than $3.7 million in total compensation—almost all of it in cash—from Chesapeake last year, according to a securities filing by the company. Webb’s remuneration was down from the nearly $4.7 million he received from Chesapeake in 2019 and the more than $6.4 million he was paid in 2018.

Webb spent nearly nine years as the top lawyer at Chesapeake, which hired him in late 2012 to replace former general counsel Henry Hood. Webb had spent nearly 18 years at leading Oklahoma law firm McAfee & Taft, where he played a key role in the litigation that resulted in the relocation of the National Basketball Association’s Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City, where they became the Thunder.

The Thunder were part-owned by Chesapeake co-founder and former CEO Aubrey McClendon, an oil and gas pioneer who died in 2016 from injuries sustained in a car accident. McClendon’s 22% stake in the NBA franchise was sold after his death.

At Continental, Webb reunites with at least one former Chesapeake lawyer in Jennifer Schnell Kaiser, a former associate division counsel at Chesapeake who now serves as a senior attorney at Continental. Other in-house attorneys at Continental include vice president and deputy general counsel Taylor Pope and Blu Hulsey, senior vice president for government and regulatory affairs.

As for Chesapeake, the company as of June 12 appointed associate general counsel for corporate Benjamin Russ to be the new head of its legal, government, regulatory affairs, corporate security, and facilities teams. Russ last year briefly joined the board of FTS International Inc. before the U.S. fracking services provider filed for bankruptcy. FTS emerged from Chapter 11 in November.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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