Phillips hires top Arco executive to head Alaska operations

Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Phillips Petroleum Co. apparently doesn't want to mess with success when it comes to its new Alaska holdings.

The Bartlesville, Okla.-based company on Wednesday announced that it has concluded its $7 billion purchase of Atlantic Richfield Co.'s properties in Alaska, and that it has hired Arco's top Alaska executive to head its operations in the state.

Kevin Meyers is president and chief executive for the new company, to be called Phillips Alaska Inc.

''We can see no other individual who would provide the leadership and direction that we want,'' said Jim Mulva, chairman and chief executive for Phillips.

Meyers, 46, rose through the Arco ranks during his 20-year career with the company to become president and CEO of Arco Alaska Inc., for years the state's second-largest oil producer, in 1998.

Arco was taken over earlier this month by BP Amoco PLC for $27 billion. Federal regulators required BP to sell Arco Alaska as a condition of approving the larger deal.

''It'll be nice to finally be working for No. 1,'' said Meyers, referring to a recent asset shuffle among Alaska oil companies that makes Phillips the state's largest petroleum producer.

He said he didn't expect his job to change much, since Phillips' objectives in Alaska were the same as Arco's -- to step up efforts to find more oil and to figure out how to get the North Slope's huge reserves of natural gas to market.

Phillips Alaska also includes the company's liquefied natural gas plant north of Kenai that has been exporting Cook Inlet gas since the early 1960s.

With its purchase of Arco Alaska, the North Slope has emerged as Phillips' largest source of crude. The company will produce about 340,000 barrels a day from the Slope, or nearly 40 percent of its daily output worldwide.

The purchase also brings to a close Arco's four-plus decades of oil production in Alaska, beginning at the Swanson River field on the Kenai Peninsula in the late 1950s.

The collision of past and future seemed to restrain the normally effusive Meyers.

''I'm proud of what we accomplished at Arco, but it's time to put that behind us,'' he said.

Phillips' Alaska production will be sold to other refiners on the West Coast, where Phillips has no refining or retail gasoline presence, Mulva said.

Mulva said other Arco Alaska executives will be joining Meyers in Phillips' top Alaska management team.

Hiring Arco Alaska managers is consistent with Phillips' plan for a plug-and-play transition into the North Slope, where the company will operate the Kuparuk and Alpine oil fields developed by Arco.

''We're looking for minimal disruption,'' Mulva said.

Karen Cowart, who heads the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, said the state's oil-field service companies were happy that Arco managers would be retained.

''It's a plus for us -- they're a known entity,'' she said. ''It's the same folks, just with different nametags.''

Earlier this month Phillips, BP Amoco and Exxon Mobil restructured ownership of the Prudhoe Bay oil field and agreed that it would be run solely by BP as a way to cut $100 million a year in operating costs. Prudhoe had been divided into halves run by BP and Arco.

As Prudhoe's sole operator, BP will need to add workers, but there will still be layoffs as a result of the restructuring. Mulva said his company wouldn't know for another month or two how many Phillips positions would be lost.

BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said Wednesday that no current BP workers would lose their jobs, though some could be moved into other positions to accommodate former Arco employees.

''Our intention is to put the best people in the organization into the positions for which they are best-suited,'' he said. ''We're going to do it without bias to prior company affiliation.''

Chappell said BP will also offer a voluntary buyout program for workers who wish to leave the company. Workers will be able to sign up the program, with the company deciding which requests to accept.

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