After searching for a leader to take the helm at EquitableResources for nearly a year, the company’s board of directorsannounced yesterday it has appointed Coral Energy CEO Murry S.Gerber, 45. Gerber will assume his position as president and chiefexecutive officer of Equitable on June 1. Gerber also will serve asa director on the company’s board.

Gerber helped to create Coral Energy, a Shell Oil energymarketing affiliate, in 1995. Previously, he was treasurer of ShellOil, where he led the strategic planning and financial activitiesfor Shell’s U.S. exploration and production business. He has workedfor Shell for 20 years.

He succeeds Donald I. Moritz, who has been serving as interimpresident and CEO since Fred Abrew retired from the post in July1997. Moritz plans to retire when Gerber assumes his new positionbut will remain on the company’s board.

In an interview with NGI, Gerber said he plans to “work onfundamentally improving the profitability of Equitable’s existingbusinesses and growing those businesses,” adding he will focus onbuilding on recent acquisitions and discoveries in the offshoreGulf and on recent energy service contracts. He expects Equitableto proceed with its announced sale of its Gulf Coast midstreamtransportation, wholesale energy marketing and gas storageoperations, including the sale of Louisiana Interstate Gas and theJefferson Island Storage project. But he noted any retail or energyservices operation is going to need core wholesale marketing in itsprofile.

“One way or another, in the distribution business and the energyservices business we do have a need for supplying commodity. We’regoing to have to have some kind of marketing and trading to servethose businesses. But I don’t think that right now we’ve got theappetite to have the breadth of a marketing business that Coralhad.” Coral sold 6.7 Bcf/d of gas in 1997.

Wall Street showed little reaction to the announcement. EQTshares rose 3/16 to close at $32 15/16. However, PaineWebber likedthe move, saying it would consider “becoming more aggressive on EQTupon further insights of Mr. Gerber’s strategies” for growing thecompany. For now, PaineWebber is maintaining its neutral outlook,given the company’s ongoing cost cutting and asset rationalizationefforts and converging trends in the industry.

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