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Charif Souki: Carl Icahn behind my Cheniere departure

It was only a few years ago that the idea of liquefying natural gas to export large quantities of cheap domestic gas was one of the most exciting stories out there, and Charif Souki, pioneered the idea.

Souki is the founder and former CEO of Cheniere Energy who first saw the opportunity for exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) and recently co-founded a new company, Tellurian Investments. Tellurian is focused on building low-cost terminals along the Gulf Coast.

In an interview with Jim Cramer on Tuesday, Souki revealed that his departure from Cheniere in December 2015 was due to a difference with the board, including recently installed member Carl Icahn. When Cramer asked Souki who specifically would differ on opinion enough with him to ask him to leave, Souki responded "Carl Icahn."





Charif Souki, Founder of Tellurian Investments
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Charif Souki, Founder of Tellurian Investments

And while Souki stated that the departure was amicable, he added the issue did not stem from an issue about how he did his job. It was about him not doing what Icahn wanted him to do.

Since that time, Souki has teamed up with Martin Houston, the former COO of BG Group to head up Tellurian Investments.

"Not only did the board decide and Mr. Icahn decide that they didn't want to do what I wanted to do, they also didn't want to continue to fund Martin. So, they made both of us free agents," Souki said.

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The difference in opinion stemmed from two misconceptions, Souki added. The first was that there was no cash to return to shareholders until 2018 because the cash flow from early returns was paying for later returns.

The second misconception was that when Cheniere reached 2019, it would only have a choice to continue to invest in the company or distribute cash to shareholders.

"The first one was misguided because he [Carl Icahn] thought we could start distributing cash flow in 2016. That was not going to happen," Souki said.

Cheniere Energy did not immediately return calls for comment from CNBC.

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