Julie Wilson, Chesapeake Energy’s top officer in the Barnett Shale and for years its public face, will leave the company effective Friday and return to consulting, she told acquaintances in an email Monday.“After seven exciting years at Chesapeake Energy, I’m moving on to the next adventure in life, resuming my previous consulting business. My last official day in the office will be June 14, although I’ve agreed to serve as consultant for the next few months to help assure a smooth transition,” the email reads.Wilson was a longtime Fort Worth advertising executive prior to joining Chesapeake in February 2006, first as a consultant and then as an employee, she told the Star-Telegram in another email. Chesapeake first began operations in the Barnett Shale in 2004 when it bought 18,000 acres of leases in Johnson County.The Oklahoma City-based producer drove a leasing frenzy in the Barnett Shale that ended with a drop in natural gas prices in late 2008. It remains the No. 2 natural gas producer in the big North Texas field behind Devon Energy, and by far the biggest producer in the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.As vice president of corporate development in the Barnett Shale, Wilson headed a local community affairs staff that at one point numbered more than 30, charged with keeping the company’s image burnished. Chesapeake and its outspoken co-founder and CEO, Aubrey McClendon, were at the forefront of the natural gas industry’s move into shale gas production in urban areas, and Wilson was a frequent figure at public meetings.Wilson’s exit follows McClendon’s resignation as CEO in April after the company’s finances eteriorated with falling natural gas prices and questions arose about his personal finances. Since his departure, a number of top Chesapeake officials have left the company.Wilson said she will be succeeded by Ben Russ, a Chesapeake attorney who is the company’s legal counsel for its southern division, which includes the Barnett Shale and the Haynesville Shale in East Texas and Louisiana. Russ works out of Chesapeake’s headquarters in Oklahoma City but “plans to be in Fort Worth a couple of days each week,” Wilson said in her email.Wilson, a New Mexico native, moved to the area in 1986 when her husband took a position at Texas Christian University. She eventually was a principal in the Fort Worth advertising agency that became Regian & Wilson. In 1998, the agency was sold to New York-based Grey Worldwide, and Wilson left in 2001 to do strategic business development and communications consulting at the Reasons Group, she said.
Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552 Twitter: @jimfuquay