Halliburton taps operations chief for top slot

Wednesday, July 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Second-in-command David J. Lesar to take over when Cheney sets out on political trail

Halliburton Co. announced Tuesday that its top job would go to David J. Lesar, the company's second-in-command, minutes after Dick Cheney said he will join Gov. George W. Bush on the Republican ticket for the White House.

"Having worked closely with Dave Lesar and the Halliburton management team over the past five years, I have great confidence for the future success of Halliburton," said Mr. Cheney, in a statement issued Tuesday.

Mr. Lesar, currently president and chief operating officer, is credited with running much of Halliburton's day-to-day operations. He will become chairman, president and chief executive Aug. 16, the same day that Mr. Cheney resigns his position to campaign for vice president.

"The opportunity to succeed someone with the character and stature of Dick Cheney is obviously a big challenge, but one I'm excited about," Mr. Lesar said Tuesday. "I'm also excited to lead a company the size of Halliburton. ... It's a heck of a challenge but one I'm very much looking forward to."

Industry analysts widely expected Mr. Lesar's appointment, saying that he has worn many hats already within the organization, from CFO to COO.

"It's been apparent, in terms of his dealing with the Street, that he's being groomed as a successor," said Michael LaMotte, an analyst for Banc of America Securities in Dallas. "I think the timing of it is perhaps a little earlier than expected ... but he is the logical successor."

Dallas-based Halliburton, founded in 1919, provides products and services to the petroleum and energy industries, with offices in 130 countries and about 95,000 employees. The company, which reported revenue of $14.9 billion in 1999, saw its shares rise 56 cents Tuesday to $42.25.

While Halliburton will miss Mr. Cheney's international contacts and expertise, Mr. Lesar said, it will maintain the priorities set by the company's management team.

"Obviously, I certainly wouldn't attempt to say we have got that stature within the company," said the 47-year-old Mr. Lesar. "But one of ... [Mr. Cheney's] strengths was building a very strong management team which he leaves behind."

Mr. Cheney, formerly the secretary of defense under President Bush, joined the company in October 1995 and was considered its visionary and international emissary.

"One of the main capabilities he had was to open doors for business opportunities outside of North America, where he was acquainted with high-level government people," said Dale P. Jones, who retired as Halliburton's vice chairman last year.

"We used to say he didn't get the business for us, but he opened the door that allowed us to present our proposals."

Robert L. Crandall, a board member of Halliburton since 1986, said he's sorry to see Mr. Cheney go but is confident in the management team.

"We're very pleased that ... [Mr Lesar's] in place, and we can have a very orderly transition, which will leave the company strong," said Mr. Crandall, formerly chairman and CEO of AMR Corp., parent of American Airlines Inc.

Mr. Cheney could not be reached for comment Tuesday about how he will deal with stock he owns in Halliburton. He could put it in a blind trust, a common practice for the nation's top two executives.

Earlier this year, he sold 100,000 shares of Halliburton stock for $5.1 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 31. The sale left him with 229,000 shares, which had a market value of about $9.5 million Monday, according to Bloomberg News.

Mr. Crandall, chairman of Halliburton's nominating and corporate governance committee, said Mr. Cheney will not receive any special compensation package.

"We're dealing with Dick exactly as we would with any other [CEO] ..." he said. "There isn't any special package here. There are no termination benefits. There's no going-away present. It's all straight up and right out of the company plans."

Staff writer Terry Maxon contributed to this report.