Copano Chairman and CEO Eckel passes away * update

john_eckel_at_copano The late John Eckel Jr., Copano Energy founder.(Company photo)

Copano Energy said Sunday that Chairman and CEO John R. Eckel, Jr. died at the age of 58. Eckel had been on a medical leave of absence since November 4 and recently suffered liver failure. Here’s his obituary that ran in today’s Chronicle.
According to a company press release Eckel founded Copano Energy in 1992 and served as president and CEO until April 2003, when he added the chairman title.

Copano grew from a single 23-mile pipeline to a successful midstream natural gas company with over 6,000 miles of pipeline and seven processing plants in Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming and Louisiana. Mr. Eckel was also an industry innovator, as evidenced by the fact that Copano was the first midstream company to trade publicly as a limited liability company.

In 2006 Eckel told the Chronicle the company was born back when he had the opportunity to buy a gas pipeline serving wells he owned. This gave him an idea – that relations between pipelines and producers didn’t have to be confrontational.

“Before that first purchase, Eckel said, he was worried about what might happen if that 23-mile long line serving his gas wells was sold to someone else. After he took control ‘we wound up luring additional producers to the pipeline.’ Eckel said he won over customers by listening to their concerns and addressing them.
One incentive for Copano workers to stay on with the company is a policy offering stock options to every employee, including the receptionists. Only one person there is exempted: the CEO. As the biggest shareholder, Eckel explains, ‘I don’t need options.'”

According to the company Eckel also served on the board of directors and on the executive committee of the Texas Pipeline Association, and as president and chief executive officer of Live Oak Reserves, Inc., an exploration and production company that he founded in 1986.
Eckel received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University and was employed in various corporate finance positions in New York prior to entering the energy industry in 1979.
Copano’s Board has appointed R. Bruce Northcutt, the company’s president and chief operating officer, as president and CEO and a member of the board of directors. Additionally, William L. Thacker, who has served on Copano’s Board since the company’s initial public offering, has been elected chairman.