Weatherford poaches Halliburton for new CEO

Financially struggling Weatherford International on Monday named Mark McCollum as its new chief executive, poaching him from his role as Halliburton’s chief financial officer.

Weatherford made an abrupt pivot, immediately cutting ties with its interim CEO, Krishna Shivram, whom most analysts believed would keep the job.

In hiring McCollum, Weatherford, which operates primarily out of Houston, is able to steal top talent from rival Halliburton. The oilfield services giant said McCollum will take the reins as president and CEO of Weatherford in late April.

The move comes after Weatherford had started calling Shivram the CEO without including “interim” in the job title. However, Shivram emphasized in February that he was only a short-listed candidate for the job and that a decision would be made before Weatherford’s board meeting on Friday.

The moves come after longtime Weatherford chairman and chief executive Bernard Duroc-Danner abruptly resigned in November. Shivram, then the CFO, stepped into the CEO role.

Weatherford also announced named William Macauley as its new board chairman. Macauley is the chairman and co-CEO of the First Reserve private equity firm. After Duroc-Danner stepped down, Robert Rayne was boosted up from vice chairman to chairman.

“We are extremely excited to have Mark as our CEO and as new member of the board,” Macauley said in the announcement. “After conducting a thorough executive search, the board determined that Mark’s significant industry experience, proven track record and leadership expertise makes him the ideal choice to lead Weatherford.”

Macauley praised Shivram’s leadership, but said he’s departing Weatherford immediately.

Weatherford CFO Christoph Bausch will serve as interim CEO until McCollum comes on board.

Halliburton appointed its executive vice president and general counsel, Robb Voyles, as interim CFO until a replacement is selected. An executive search firm will lead the search for a new CFO.

McCollum became Halliburton’s CFO in 2008 and also served as the chief integration officer during the failed Halliburton takeover of Baton Rouge-based Baker Hughes, which is now being acquired by General Electric. McCollum is a Baylor University graduate.

In the beginning of February, Weatherford announced it plans to sell its U.S. hydraulic fracturing business and its Middle East drilling rig division as it continues to cut jobs worldwide. At the time, Weatherford said it was focused on downsizing and debt reduction.

Since the beginning of 2014, Weatherford has reduced its workforce to below 30,000 from more than 67,000. That includes about 9,000 jobs cut in 2016 with more coming early this year. The company was struggling financially even when oil was at $100 a barrel and began eliminating jobs before the bust.

Last year, Weatherford  agreed to pay a $140 million penalty to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it inflated its profits through deceptive accounting practices. The SEC alleged that Weatherford executives committed intentional fraud — not gross negligence — in the commission’s largest case of financial fraud this year. Weatherford overstated its earnings by nearly $1 billion from 2007 to 2012 and had virtually no oversight over its tax department, according to the SEC.

The SEC alleged that Weatherford fraudulently lowered its income tax provisions by $100 million to $154 million each year to better match its earlier projections and analysts’ expectations. The fraud created the false perception that Weatherford’s tax structure was far more successful than reality. Weatherford had to restate its financial statements on three occasions in 2011 and 2012.

Shivram was brought on from Schlumberger to help right the ship financially.