Ultra Petroleum CEO Mike Watford leaves at short notice

  • Push-out Score suggests push-out forces
  • After 19 years in the position
  • Praise and thanks for Watford
  • Brad Johnson taking over in the interim
  • Watford spoke at length and said 79 words

(exechange) — Houston, Texas, January 30, 2018 — Mike Watford, chief executive of Ultra Petroleum, leaves. It is a change at short notice. As announced by Ultra Petroleum Corp. in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Tuesday, January 30, 2018, Michael D. (Mike) Watford leaves his post as Chief Executive Officer at the independent exploration and production company after 19 years in the position, effective February 28, 2018.

It is the end of an era.

Among the 3,000 largest publicly held companies incorporated in the U.S. based on market capitalization, the average tenure of the CEOs who departed over the past twelve months was 9.2 years, according to data compiled by exechange. Only 16 percent of the CEOs who departed over the past twelve months left the position after more than 15 years.

Watford’s duties will be taken over in the interim by Brad Johnson, currently Senior Vice President, Operations at Ultra Petroleum Corp.

“I believe now is the right time”

A reason for Watford’s imminent departure from the CEO post was not explicitly given. Watford said: “Given our successful emergence from the reorganization process almost a year ago, and following the recent success of the horizontal program, Ultra Petroleum is very well positioned, and I believe now is the right time to make the transition to new leadership.”

Precise information about Watford’s future plans was not immediately available.


Ultra Petroleum said: “Ultra Petroleum Corp. … today announced that, after leading the Company for 19 years, Chairman and CEO Michael D. Watford will be retiring from his role at the Company, effective February 28, 2018.”

Share price decline

The change follows a decline in the share price of Ultra Petroleum Corp. since June 2017.

In the position of CEO since 1999

Michael D. Watford was appointed Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ultra Petroleum Corp. in 1999.

Prior to joining Ultra Petroleum, Watford served as Chief Executive Officer of Nuevo Energy Company from 1994 to 1998.

Watford has enjoyed a full range of domestic and international industry experiences in the exploration and production, downstream refinery and chemicals businesses and managed product marketing, processing, and pipeline businesses while working over his 41-year career.

Watford has held various management positions for a number of energy companies including Shell Oil, Superior Oil, Meridian Oil (Burlington Resources), Torch Energy, and Nuevo Energy. Watford attended the University of Florida where he earned his undergraduate degree in Finance in 1975.

While working for Shell Oil, he attended night school at the University of New Orleans where he earned his MBA in 1978.

Watford is Chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and he is on the Board of Directors of Axip Energy Services and America’s Natural Gas Alliance. In addition, he is a member of the National Petroleum Council, an oil and natural gas advisory committee to the U.S. Secretary of Energy.

He also serves as a voting member on the Board of Trustees for Northwest Assistance Ministries.

Watford is the Company’s largest individual shareholder.


As a general rule, when a top leader announces to step down with no permanent successor available, it is a signal that the move was unexpected and too early.

Push-out Score suggests push-out forces

It is not completely certain what forces eventually triggered Mike Watford’s imminent move.

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange suggests that push-out forces may have contributed to the change.

Read the full story in the exechange report 6.2018 ($).