Peabody Energy Corp.'s board of directors has appointed James Grech to be the company's next president and chief executive officer effective June 1.

Grech will replace current President and CEO Glenn Kellow, who has led the multi-national coal conglomerate since 2013. Kellow's departure from the company was announced in a March federal Securities and Exchange Commission filing. While Peabody's announcement of the change in leadership didn't give many details about the separation, the SEC filing called Kellow's ouster a "termination."

"On behalf of the full board, I'd like to welcome Jim to Peabody," said board chairman Bob Malone in a press release announcing the appointment. "Jim's extensive operational, commercial and financial experience in mining, utilities and other fuel sources will be instrumental to Peabody's success moving forward."

Malone also thanked Kellow "for his dedicated service during a very difficult time for the company and for his commitment to facilitate and orderly transition."

Kellow has been at the helm of the company through some of the industry’s most turbulent times, including a high-profile bankruptcy in 2016 and a recent prolonged downturn in thermal coal that hit the company’s flagship Powder River Basin mines hard.

Kellow, who was paid more than $7.6 million in salary, bonus and benefits in 2019, will receive a monthly severance payout of nearly $187,000 for up to 24 months following his last day, which has been set at no later than Aug. 31, according to the SEC filing. If he gets the full amount, it comes to just under $4.5 million over two years.

Kellow also owns more than 938,000 shares of Peabody stock, which is reported in a Feb. 22 SEC filing in which the company disclosed the CEO had sold 10,246 shares of his stock at a price of $4.29 per share. As of Tuesday morning, Peabody stock was trading at $4.13 a share.

Grech has more than 30 years of experience in coal and natural resources, most recently as CEO of Wolverine Fuels, a thermal coal producer and marketer, according to Peabody's press release. Prior to that, he was president of Nexus Gas Transmission and chief commercial officer and executive vice president of Consol Energy.

"I look forward to joining Peabody's talented workforce and shaping the company's strategic path forward to maximize value for all stakeholders," Grech said in the release. "I'm impressed by the significant strides the company has made during a difficult period and am excited to further improve the competitiveness of Peabody.

Kellow will step down when Grech comes on board June 1. Also, if Kellow is re-elected to the company's board of directors during its annual shareholders meeting Thursday, Grech will be appointed to replace Kellow for the rest of his term.

The past year has been especially hard for thermal coal, including Peabody and its PRB mines, Caballo, Rawhide and North Antelope Rochelle. Together, the mines produced 84.2 million tons of coal last year, down from the nearly 108 million tons mined in 2019. Still, Peabody’s production accounted for more than 40% of the overall coal production of the Powder River Basin last year.

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