Range Resources Corp. President Jeffrey L. Ventura is slated to become CEO of the company Jan. 1 when current CEO John H. Pinkerton will become executive chairman, the Marcellus Shale-focused producer said Monday.

Ventura, 53, is also the company’s current COO. He has been with Range since 2003 and was elected a director in 2005. Ventura has 32 years of industry experience and holds a bachelor’s degree in petroleum and natural gas engineering from Pennsylvania State University. Pinkerton has been CEO since 1992.

“The process of transitioning the CEO responsibilities to Jeff has been under way for some time” Pinkerton said. “Jeff’s leadership, technical abilities and proven track record make him the logical choice as my successor. Having worked side by side with Jeff for eight years, I have great confidence that he will successfully lead Range for the benefit of all our stakeholders.”

Analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. said the management shift may “dampen” expectations in the near term that Range could merge with another player or be acquired, “but high-return assets are always desirable, especially given [Range’s] Marcellus position.”

Earlier this year Range transformed itself when it sold its Barnett Shale assets for $900 million to instead focus on the Marcellus Shale. “We have assembled a very attractive inventory of high-return, low-cost drilling opportunities. This is evidenced by our plan to sell the Barnett properties, representing more than 20% of our current production, and fully replace its production and generate double-digit growth all within the same year,” Pinkerton said at the time (see Shale Daily, March 2).

Appalachia is one of the few basins where Range mostly drills on its own. “This basin, for some reason, hasn’t embraced that partnership concept, where you join together and you do it for the benefit of everybody,” Pinkerton said earlier this year. “I think that needs to really take off because if it doesn’t, the play is not going to take place as fast as it should” (see Shale Daily, March 23).

Range shares lost 22 cents Monday to end the regular session at $52.06.