Penn Virginia CEO Dearlove to retire

After 15 years as CEO, A. James Dearlove will retire from Penn Virginia Corp., the Radnor natural gas and oil exploration company, after the annual shareholders meeting in May.

The board promoted H. Baird Whitehead from chief operating officer to president Thursday and elected him to the board. The company said in a statement that the board is expected to name the 60-year-old Whitehead CEO in May.

Whitehead joined Penn Virginia in 2001 after more than 20 years as an executive with Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.

Penn Virginia chairman Robert Garrett said the board has considered "various alternatives" but "quickly settled" on Whitehead as Dearlove's successor. Here's a quote:

We believe that Baird, with his deep knowledge of the E&P [exploration and production] business and of our company, along with his clear leadership skills, is the right person to lead PVA into its next growth phase.

Shares Friday morning traded higher up 24 cents to $17.38 per share as of 11:30 a.m.

Dearlove, 63, has been president and CEO since May 1996. Revenues have grown from $34 million in 1996 to $815.14 million in 2009. Penn Virginia's share price has risen 292 percent during his tenure, although shares are far below the all-time closing high of $76.80 on July 1, 2008, when energy prices reached their most recent peaks.