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Cheniere votes to replace CEO Souki, appoints Shear as interim head

Cheniere Energy Inc CEO Charif Souki speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas, April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Daniel Kramer

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cheniere Energy Inc (LNG.A) said on Sunday it would replace Chief Executive Charif Souki months after activist investor Carl Icahn took a big stake in the company as it prepared to become the first exporter of natural gas from the United States.

The board decided on the change over the weekend at a meeting where directors reevaluated Souki's plans of building the company beyond exporting liquefied natural gas, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Souki will be replaced by board director Neal Shear on an interim basis, the company said in a statement, adding that board member Andrea Botta has been appointed as chairman of its board of directors, effective immediately.

Shear is a former managing director of Morgan Stanley's commodity business and became part of the ownership group that purchased the Come-By-Chance refinery in Newfoundland, Canada.

In a statement, Icahn said he fully supported the board for "having the guts" to replace Souki, adding that there was "little doubt that the board wished to move the company in a direction that differed greatly from the path Souki wanted."

The company will immediately begin its search for a permanent CEO, the release from Cheniere said.


(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Jessica Resnick-Ault; additional reporting by Aurindom Mukherjee and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Cooney and Grant McCool)