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May 25, 2020

Vermilion CEO steps down with no reason given

Vermilion CEO steps down with no reason given

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Vermilion Energy Inc.’s Anthony Marino has stepped down from his positions as president, chief executive officer and director, effective immediately, the company said Monday.

Lorenzo Donadeo, who co-founded Vermilion and served as CEO from 1996-2003 and has most recently been serving as chairman, becomes executive chairman. Vermilion also announced that former Chief Financial Officer Curtis Hicks has returned to the company as president.

The Calgary-based oil-and-gas producer said it will be led by an executive committee in lieu of filling the CEO role. The committee will consist of the executive chairman, president, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, executive vice-president of people and culture and vice-president of business development.

"In these challenging times, Vermilion will redouble its focus on its core business principles that have served it well over its successful 26-year history,” Donadeo said in a release.

“These principles are based on a conservative, long-term focus on balance sheet strength and capital discipline to generate strong returns. This has resulted in Vermilion providing shareholders with over $3.8 billion, or $40.20 per share, of dividends over the last 17 years.”

Vermilion suspended its dividend last month, after cutting it twice, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global energy industry.  

The company did not provide a reason for Marino’s departure. He joined Vermilion in 2012 as COO and was named CEO in 2016. Prior to joining the company, he served as chief executive of Baytex Energy Corp.  

 Analysts were supportive of the executive changes given the past experience of Donadeo and Hicks.

"We expect that once the dust settles, this will be viewed as a positive decision as Vermilion repositions itself as a relatively low-risk operator, backed by an asset portfolio that can provide shareholder returns through both the quality of the asset base and the dividend," said National Bank analyst Travis Wood in a report.

Stifel FirstEnergy analyst Michael Dunn said, "we view the moves as a reflection of the board's desire to re-establish past principles (i.e. conservative balance sheet, key decision making by committee)."

Marino earned $4.8 million in 2019, including $933,000 in base salary and $3.5 million in share-based awards, according to a company filing.

Last month, Vermilion announced a $1.2-billion writedown in the value of its oil and gas assets due to low global commodity prices. About 60 per cent of its production comes from Canada but it also operates in countries including Australia, Ireland, the United States, Netherlands, Germany and France.

It also trimmed $100 million from its 2020 capital spending budget and announced $35 million in other cuts to expenses.

Oil prices have fallen dramatically over the past three months due to demand destruction from measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as lingering effects of a market share battle between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Vermilion's shares traded as low as $6.85, down 4.2 per cent, Monday morning on the Toronto Stock Exchange. In the past year they've varied between $2.21 and $30.04.

Vermilion said the company has used the executive committee structure in the past and that it has been re-established formally.

With files from The Canadian Press