Chesapeake Energy Chairman Puts Money Where Mouth Is

Tickers in this article: CHK UNP

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Retired ConocoPhillips (COP) CEO Archie Dunham, brought in by Chesapeake Energy (CHK) to undo the mess made by CEO Aubrey McClendon and restore confidence in the oil and gas driller, is putting his money where his mouth is as non-executive chairman of Chesapeake.

Dunham purchased $1.5 million worth of Chesapeake shares at an average price of $20 in the past week, in two transactions that total more than the $1.1 million that Chesapeake has agreed to pay Dunham in stock and cash this year to serve as chairman, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

The Chesapeake stock buy from Dunham -- 75,000 shares -- increased his existing stake by 30%, to 326,000 shares. Dunham owned 251,391 shares prior to the purchase -- including 51,000 shares across two stock awards given this past summer as part of his compensation as chairman. He was already an owner of 200,000 shares before joining Chesapeake as chairman.

Each newly appointed director at Chesapeake, including Dunham, received 10,000 shares of Chesapeake stock on July 2, the filings reveal. Dunham also received an initial restricted stock award worth $500,000 and an annual stock award valued at $250,000 when he agreed to serve as chairman. His total annual compensation was valued at $1.1 million by Bloomberg, based on company filings.

Insider sales tracker Insiderscore.com noted that Dunham's buy was the biggest insider transaction at Chesapeake in 10 months and came shortly after its sale of Permian and midstream assets that served to quiet near-term investor anxiety about liquidity.

"While it's possible that Dunham funded his recent CHK purchase with his ex/sale of soon-to-expire UNP Union-Pacific options," Insiderscore argued, "the fact remains that this is a significant display of conviction by a longtime energy-sector veteran, and it's a sharp display of confidence that CHK can meet its long-term liquidity needs. It is also the largest purchase at the oil and natural gas company since November 2011 and comes after three insiders purchased $868.5K at $17.89 in June."

Dunham had $1.5 million in expiring Union Pacific (UNP) options, where he also serves on the board.

More on Chesapeake Energy:

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Chesapeake Energy can't get Chinese to overpay for every acre

--By Eric Rosenbaum

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