Apache Corp. Chairman and CEO G. Steven Farris, 66, who has been with the company since 1988, retired effective Tuesday. John J. Christmann IV, 48, COO of North America operations, has taken the helm.

Farris has been CEO since 2002, chairman since 2009, and he re-assumed the title of president last February. From 1994-2009, Farris was president and COO. He also previously had been senior vice president (1991-1994) and vice president-exploration and production (1998-1991).

Christmann was tapped as CEO and president. Farris would continue as nonexecutive chairman until May 1, after which he plans to retire from the board. Director John Lowe, 54, has been elected to succeed Farris as nonexecutive chairman.

“It has been a privilege to lead one of the top independent oil and gas producers and work alongside some of the best professionals in the business,” Farris said. “After more than 25 years with the company and 14 years as CEO, it is time to hand over the reins to a new generation of leaders. I look forward to working with John, the board and the management team over the next few months to ensure a smooth transition.”

Apache has been downsizing its operations for more than two years to improve its balance sheet. Through last June, Apache had announced or sold off almost $10 billion in assets (see Daily GPI, May 10, 2013). Leading shareholder Jana Partners LLC last summer added more pressure, urging the producer to downsize more by selling/spinning off the international and Canadian businesses to focus solely on the United States (see Daily GPI, July 22, 2014).

Last fall, natural gas-heavy leaseholds were sold in South Louisiana and the Anadarko Basin (see Shale Daily, Nov. 20, 2014). In December, costly liquefied natural gas export businesses in British Columbia and Australia were sold (see Daily GPI, Dec. 15, 2014). With its repositioning, 70% of the production now is based in North America. It is one of the biggest operators in the Permian Basin, among other places.

“We have a deeper inventory of North American opportunities than at any other time in our history, and I am confident the company is now well positioned to achieve its goal of becoming the premiere North American resource company,” Farris said. “John is the ideal person to lead Apache going forward.”

Lead director Charles Pitman said the board has been working on CEO succession “for some time, and Steve has done an exceptional job grooming John Christmann and other future Apache leaders.”

Christmann has worked for Apache for 18 years. As the region vice president-Permian region from 2010 through 2013, he established Apache’s Midland, TX, office and oversaw a doubling of production during his tenure. From 2004-2010, Christmann served as vice president-business development and helped execute more than $6 billion in acquisitions and divestments. Among other things, Christmann also was production manager for Gulf Coast region.

Prior to joining Apache, Christmann was employed by Vastar Resources/Arco Oil and Gas Co. He earned his bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and his master’s degree from Southern Methodist University.

Lowe has served on the board since 2013. He previously spent more than 30 years with ConocoPhillips and predecessor firms, where he was, among other things, executive vice president, exploration and production. Lowe services on the board of Phillips 66 and Agrium Inc., and is a special executive adviser to Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co.