Patriot Coal CEO Whiting leaves company


Associated Press

Posted on May 29, 2012 at 7:02 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 29 at 7:02 AM

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Patriot Coal Corp. said Tuesday that CEO Richard Whiting is leaving the company.

The announcement comes as concerns rise that the mining company could run short on cash. Last week Patriot announced that it is working with private equity firm The Blackstone Group and the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP to secure a financing package.

Investors are concerned that the St. Louis company will not be able to secure a $625 million loan, announced earlier this month, before it must repay older loans by next March. Patriot said last week that it is continuing to work with the lenders.

The coal producer named Chairman Irl F. Engelhardt as Whiting's successor. Engelhardt, 65, will continue to lead the company's board.

Patriot also named Chief Operating Officer Bennett Hatfield to the additional role of president. The 55-year-old will be responsible for overseeing the execution of the company's operations, sales and marketing plans.

Coal companies are suffering from lower demand and sliding prices. Utilities in the U.S. are using cheaper natural gas to generate electricity, which is dramatically lowering demand for coal used to power electric generators.

The company recently lowered its sales volume and price estimates for coal used to make steel, citing a potential customer default.

The company did not say in the news release why Whiting is leaving. He had been president and CEO since 2007.

But in the statement, Engelhardt noted Whiting had "guided Patriot through a complex spin-off and its emergence as a standalone public company" and thanked him for his contributions, commitment and service.

Shares of Patriot gained 3 cents to $2.49 in premarket trading.