BHP Billiton’s former oil CEO Yeager joins Maverick Drilling

J. Michael Yeager, the former head of BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP)’s oil and gas division, was named chief executive officer of Maverick Drilling & Exploration Ltd., an explorer that’s listed in Australia and focused on the U.S.

Don Henrich will retire as Maverick’s executive chairman after running the company for more than 37 years, while Executive Director Brad Simmons will leave, the Brisbane-based company said today in a statement.

Yeager, who led BHP’s $20 billion move into the U.S. shale gas industry, joins Maverick as the company moves to have its stock trade in the U.S. before the end of the year, according to the statement. Maverick, which has dropped 41 percent this year in Sydney trading, holds leases in producing oil fields south of Houston.

Maverick (MAD) closed at 42.5 Australian cents a share on Oct. 11, before being halted, valuing the company at A$192 million ($182 million).

Yeager, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who left Melbourne-based BHP earlier this year, has previously worked at Exxon Mobil Corp. He will receive a salary of $1.3 million and a retirement contribution of $500,000 annually, Maverick said. He also will get 15 million Maverick shares and 10 million performance rights, subject to shareholder approval, according to Maverick, whose main office is in Houston.