Encana says CEO Doug Suttles’ move from Calgary to Denver not a precursor to an office-wide relocation

CALGARY – Encana Corp.’s chief executive Doug Suttles is relocating from Calgary to Denver, but the company says there are no plans to move the headquarters south of the border.

Suttles’ plans to move from Calgary, where Encana is headquartered, to its Denver office by the end of the spring – a move that has stoked fears in Calgary that the headquarters could move too, given half of Encana’s capital is deployed in U.S. shale basins.

Concern about companies relocating out of Calgary has become more intense since tax reforms were implemented in the U.S., where many Canadian oil and gas producers such as Encana have large operations and a possible financial incentive to move.

But Encana spokesperson Jay Averill said Suttles was leaving Calgary for personal reasons and that the executive already spends parts of his time working out of Encana’s 800-person Denver office.

He said the move is not a precursor to a larger, office-wide relocation. Encana’s Calgary office is slightly larger than the Denver office, with close to 1,000 people working there.

“We’re not moving other staff and, no, we’re not relocating our head office,” Averill said Friday. “That’s a definitive ‘no’ on that.”

The company’s production, capital and staff are all “pretty evenly split” between the two cities and that Suttles’ move would have little to no effect on the company’s day-to-day operations, Averill said.

The move, however, comes at a time when many domestic oil and gas companies are calling on the provincial and federal governments to make the province more competitive relative to the U.S., where U.S. President Donald Trump has overhauled the tax system and eliminated regulations.

Amid those calls, speculation about which Canadian companies could be enticed to move south is high.

Earlier this month, Ted Morton, a former minister of energy in Alberta, suggested in a Financial Post column that TransCanada Corp. is considering a move to Houston.

But the pipeline company has denied it.

“Respectfully, it is TransCanada’s corporate policy not to speculate on rumours and speculation and this would certainly fit those categories,” company spokesperson Mark Cooper said of a potential move.

Suttles, who was hired in 2013, made $13 million in 2016, according to the company’s most recent management compensation disclosure.

This is not the first time an American-born executive at a Canadian oil and gas producer has decamped from Alberta to Colorado, which has a low income tax rate of 4.63 per cent and among the lowest sales tax rates in the U.S. at 2.9 per cent.

In 1997, Gulf Canada Resources Inc.’s CEO J.P. Bryan moved the company’s entire executive team and headquarters from Calgary to Denver because, Bryan said, it would be easier to attract top talent in the U.S.

The move was short lived as executives and the headquarters were back in Calgary in 1999, by which time Dick Auchinleck had become CEO and was trying to un-do many of Bryan’s moves.

Financial Post

gmorgan@nationalpost.com

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