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Cheniere Exec Gentle Jumps Ship to Rival Souki Venture

Former Cheniere Energy Inc. marketing executive Meg Gentle has ponied up $10 million of her takings from that company to buy into startup liquefied natural gas (LNG) developer Tellurian Investments, which was co-founded by ousted Cheniere co-founder Charif Souki. Gentle will be Tellurian's president and CEO, and a member of its board.

"Meg is an exceptionally talented executive," Souki said Wednesday. "She joined me at Cheniere in 2004 as an analyst. In 2009, when the shale revolution changed the outlook for the company [see Daily GPIJune 2, 2009], I called on her to assume the role of chief financial officer. In very difficult circumstances, she managed Cheniere's liquidity and arranged financings which bought the company time to recover and adapt. When we developed our new strategy, she went on to negotiate $25 billion of debt and equity financings which turned Cheniere into a spectacular success."

Earlier this week Cheniere announced Gentle's departure in a regulatory filing (see Daily GPIAug. 29). She had been executive vice president of marketing, recently based in London. "In her most recent commercial role, she established Cheniere's platform for future growth...Over the past 12 years I have learned to trust her completely and have watched her perform brilliantly. She will do the same at Tellurian," Souki said.

Last May Cheniere named Jack Fusco president and CEO, succeeding Neal Shear, who had held the positions on an interim basis after Souki's departure (see Daily GPIMay 12).

Tellurian was formed in February by Souki and BG Group alumnus Martin Houston to build mid-scale natural gas liquefaction and export projects along the U.S. Gulf Coast (see Daily GPIFeb. 23). In February, Souki and Houston were at IHS CERAWeek in Houston, talking up the venture with reporters at the same time that Gentle was several floors below at the same hotel, announcing the first export cargo from Cheniere's Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana (see Daily GPIFeb. 25).

Souki had been ousted from Cheniere a little more than two months earlier (see Daily GPIDec. 14, 2015). Houston had been running Cheniere-backed Parallax Energy, an initiative of Souki's when he was still at the company (see Daily GPIOct. 24, 2014). Houston told NGI earlier this year that when Souki was cut loose from Cheniere, his funding for Parallax was cut as well. The two quickly decided to partner on a new venture: Tellurian.

Souki is non-executive chairman; Houston is executive vice chairman. Gentle is to run strategic and daily operations.

"When Charif knew that he was going to continue in the LNG business, even before he was certain what he was going to do, he approached me to see if I was interested," said Gentle, who in July returned to Houston from her assignment with Cheniere in London. She had been with the company more than 12 years.

"As Cheniere gets into operating mode, my experience really is in developing small companies, building teams, accessing the market for financing," she told NGI. "It was time to bring that experience to a new place, and Tellurian was really perfect to take that experience and kind of do it all over again, to start with a small team."

Gentle said Souki has been a mentor to her, and she credited Houston for helping to bring destination flexibility to the LNG market, increasing cargo fungibility.

Now Gentle is looking forward to an expanding LNG market, with 15 production trains expected to come online over the next 24 months. "It's a good opportunity to take the time that we need to develop our engineering design, challenge our contractors to reduce unit costs and then work through the permitting process so that we're bringing new LNG into production in the market in the 2022 time frame when new projects will be needed to come online to support the growth in demand," she said.

Tellurian's first project is Driftwood LNG, a 26 million ton per annum export facility proposed near Lake Charles, LA (see Daily GPIMay 13). It is in the engineering design and pre-filing phase at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Tellurian expects construction to begin in 2018 and the project to become operational in 2022.

In early August Tellurian agreed to merge with publicly traded Magellan Petroleum Corp. (see Daily GPIAug. 3). The deal is expected to close during the fourth quarter. Magellan CEO Thomas Wilson said at the time that his company's shareholders would get the opportunity "...to participate at an early stage in an investment potentially similar to Cheniere Energy's remarkable success, under the leadership of Charif Souki."

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