HOUSTON, March 13, 2003 — El Paso Corp. announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Ronald L. Kuehn, Jr. to serve as chief executive officer and chairman of the board, replacing William A. Wise, effective immediately.
While Wise had previously agreed to step down by the end of the year and assist in a CEO transition plan, the board has now accelerated the transition to provide strong leadership and stability while in search of a permanent CEO. The board recognizes that the CEO search has been complicated by the announced proxy contest and believes that the pursuit of the company’s business strategy will be better served without leadership uncertainty.
Ronald L. Kuehn, Jr., El Paso’s lead director, stated, “I am honored to serve as chairman and CEO while a new CEO is selected. All of the building blocks are in place-El Paso is a great company with world-class assets and the finest employees in the business. While our industry has recently faced unprecedented challenges, I am confident that the board and company will continue to take the necessary actions to preserve and enhance the value of El Paso.”
“The company is making steady progress on executing our business plan. We have signed agreements for or closed approximately 45 percent, or $1.5 billion, of the $3.4 billion of asset sales the company expects in 2003. This includes the anticipated closing this week of the agreement with Chesapeake Energy Corporation for the sale of our Mid-Continent natural gas and oil reserves for $500 million. We are also continuing to work towards resolution of the company’s outstanding legal and regulatory issues.”
“Under Bill’s direction, El Paso assembled North America’s leading natural gas franchise and the largest natural gas pipeline network in the United States. He was instrumental in the creation and implementation to date of our 2003 business plan,” concluded Kuehn.
The company disclosed that Wise will receive severance benefits provided under his pre-existing employment agreement, principally his salary, half of his annual bonus, and pension benefits, for the remaining three-year term of the agreement. Wise’s outstanding loan obligations will remain payable to the company. Under the agreement, Wise will no longer be eligible to receive change in control benefits.