Wilson leaving Chesapeake June 11, 2013
A. Lee Graham
Julie Wilson’s fondest memory as Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s vice president of urban development came at an unlikely moment.
Stung by the Fort Worth City Council’s 2008 decision to reject the energy company’s permit application for an Eighth Avenue natural gas well, Wilson turned seeming defeat into an opportunity to deepen community ties.
“Despite the agony of defeat, I think it was a wonderful time for neighborhoods and industry to come together and hold civil discourse on a highly controversial topic,” Wilson said.
That topic, urban drilling and using hydraulic fracturing to unlock vast quantities of subterranean oil and natural gas, has polarized energy producers and residents since before Chesapeake began drilling in the Barnett Shale in 2004.
Such matters are in the past for Wilson, who returns to consulting after leaving Chesapeake. Her last day is Friday June 14.
“After seven exciting years at Chesapeake Energy, I’m moving on to the next adventure in life, resuming my previous consulting business,” Wilson said in an email sent five days before her planned June 14 departure.
As vice president of urban development with the company, Wilson oversaw its North Texas corporate activities. Those duties now fall to Ben Russ, the company’s Southern Division counsel and her successor.
“He plans to be in Fort Worth a couple of days each week, and you’ll be in good hands with him,” Wilson said in the email.
Before joining Chesapeake, Wilson built a solid reputation in marketing communications and advertising consulting. As president and CEO of Regian & Wilson/Grey Worldwide: Texas from 1986 to 2001, Wilson served what was then the largest marketing communications, advertising and public relations firm in Tarrant County. She took those skills to Reasons Group Inc., which she founded in 2001 and served as president.
Even after joining Chesapeake in 2006, she never officially closed the business, begging the question whether she knew leaving Chesapeake would eventually happen.
“I always suspected that I would go back into consulting,” Wilson said.
Her Chesapeake departure comes at a turbulent time for the company, with the past year seeing Chesapeake shed pipelines and other assets to preserve revenue as low prices for natural gas ate into profits.
Those low prices forced the firm to scale back operations in the Barnett Shale. As if that weren’t enough, Aubrey K. McClendon stepped down as CEO in April after a Chesapeake audit committee found no “intentional misconduct” by McClendon as part of a review released in February. The finding came as Chesapeake’s board received results of the previously announced review of financing arrangements between McClendon and third parties identified as having a financial relationship with the company.
Asked whether Wilson’s departure came, at least in part, from the transition from McClendon to new CEO Robert Douglas Lawler, and she did not say. Instead, she wished the new chief well.
“Chesapeake certainly made history by accepting the challenge of urban drilling,” Wilson said.
“And regardless of one’s position on urban drilling and production, I think most residents agree that the economic benefits of the natural gas industry have changed our future for the positive. I believe that Chesapeake will continue to grow and prosper under Mr. Lawler’s leadership,” Wilson said.
Though stepping down from Chesapeake, Wilson remains committed to the community. She serves as the 2012-13 chairwoman for United Way of Tarrant County, as well as serving as a board member of the North Texas Commission, Petroleum Club of Fort Worth, Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Fort Worth Inc.
While appreciating her Chesapeake experience, Wilson said she looks forward to the next chapter in her professional life and “… a little time to smell those flowers I keep hearing about.”