CEO sees pay package more than double

HOUSTON – The CEO of Cheniere Energy may keep his claim to the highest pay package of any energy executive in Houston – at least on paper.

Charif Souki, who is leading Houston-based Cheniere’s transformation from a natural gas importer into an exporter, collected about $142 million last year, according to regulatory documents filed Monday.

That dwarfs his pay the year before, $57.5 million — the largest sum any Houston chief earned in 2012.

Of course, the vast bulk of Souki’s wealth came from stock awards. Last year, his shares in Cheniere amounted to $132 million of his pay. That’s up from $49 million in stock awards the year before.

Still, Souki’s pay far outweighed packages for leaders at companies more than 30 times the size of Cheniere, which was worth $12.4 billion after trading on Monday.

Exxon Mobil Chairman CEO Rex Tillerson, who has led the $437 billion company for nearly a decade, saw his compensation drop by $12.1 million to $28.1 million last year.

And Chevron CEO John Watson’s pay shrank by $8.2 million to $24 million last year, as activist investors have worked to make energy companies pare down top-shelf executive pay.

Cheniere, worth less than a buck a share on the stock market five years ago, lost a multibillion-dollar bet on natural gas import facilities after shale-gas drilling hiked natural gas supplies across the United States.

Now, at the Sabine Pass in Louisiana — the site of its previous failed experiment — the company is in the middle of building its first two facilities that could chill liquefied natural gas into a liquid state for tankers to carry overseas to eager Asian buyers.

Investors expect Cheniere’s $12 billion answer to a changing market to bring in a tidal wave of profits as the company becomes the first in the U.S. to sell liquefied natural gas to countries with which the U.S. does not have free trade agreements — lucrative markets like China and India.

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About The Author

Collin Eaton joined the Houston Chronicle's team of energy reporters in 2013, after covering the financial industry for another publication. He writes mainly about U.S. oil companies and developments in international oil markets.