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New EQT board appoints Toby Rice as CEO

Rice's seven-person slate voted into EQT board on Wednesday

Shareholders at US shale gas giant EQT have voted to replace a majority of board members with a slate of Rice team nominees, according to official voting results from an annual meeting, ending a proxy battle for board control that began last year.

Toby Rice will lead EQT as chief executive with a 12-member board consisting of seven members from the Rice slate of nominees and five others that were supported both by EQT and the Rices. The board unanimously appointed Toby as chief executive late Wednesday.

“Now is the time to put this proxy contest behind us and come together as one team to transform EQT into a technology-enabled, sustainable energy producer," Toby Rice said in a statement after thanking shareholders.

The Rice brothers, Toby and Derek, have been battling with the board since last year following what they have called unsatisfactory results after they sold their family company Rice Energy to EQT in a $6.7 billion merger in 2017.

The Rice team, including another brother Daniel who currently sits on the EQT board, collectively hold a 3.1% stake in the company.

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"There is a lot of work to be done, and we look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working closely with EQT’s talented employees to execute our plan," Toby Rice said.

"We are committed to a smooth transition and to realizing EQT’s full potential to create significant value for shareholders."

Current chief executive Rob McNally thanked employees for their work and dedication to the company and wished EQT and the Rice team "great success in the future".

The new board includes Rice nominees: Lydia Beebe, Lee Canaan, Kathryn Jackson, John McCartney, James McManus II, Toby Rice, and Hallie Vanderhider. McCartney will lead the board as chairman.

Incumbents include Rice brother Daniel, Philip Behrman, Janet Carrig, Anita Powers, and Stephen Thorington.

The new board has created an Evolution Committee tasked with executing a "smooth but expeditious transition to reconstruct the Company’s organization, technology, and operations."

All 12 elected directors received more than 80% of the votes cast at the meeting, EQT said.

Analysts at Cowen said in a research note that in the near-term they expect the Rice team “to focus on streamlining G&A and personnel and to introduce more technology and planning around water handling and midstream to prepare EQT for a more streamlined large-scale development model.”

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