( 4UMF NEWS ) Indicted OKC Thunder Owner Dies In Fiery Crash:
Aubrey McClendon, considered a maverick in the energy industry, died in a fiery single-car crash Wednesday, less than 24 hours after he was indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to rig bids for oil and natural gas leases.
The controversial former CEO of Chesapeake Energy, who was forced to relinquish his position as chairman of that company in 2012 following a shareholder revolt led by activist investor Carl Icahn, built it into the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas, amassing wealth to become part owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team and a renowned collector of antique maps and rare wines. He was married to Whirlpool heiress Kathleen “Katie” Byrns McClendon, a relative of U.S. Congressman Fred Upton, chairman of the House committee on Energy and Commerce, and supermodel Kate Upton.
Chesapeake came under scrutiny after it was disclosed that McClendon, 56, had borrowed more than $1 billion against his personal stake in company wells. An internal review found no improper conduct. He got an exit package valued at more than $53 million and, in 2013, he went on to found American Energy Partners, an energy facility management company.
The reaction on Wall Street — as least in terms of what the news meant for the company — appeared to be relief. Chesapeake Energy was already the best-performing stock in Standard & Poor’s 500 index Wednesday when news of McClendon’s death broke. The stock added to its gains after that, ending the day up 23%.
Often lauded for his contributions to the energy industry, McClendon was one of the most prominent figures in the oil and gas business, having co-founded Chesapeake in 1989 with Oklahoma City businessman Tom Ward and growing it to be the second-largest natural gas producer in the U.S. He’s also considered a pioneer in the emergence of shale energy in the U.S., which helped to lower the U.S. dependence on oil imports.
McClendon also was a highly visible personality in the local civic and philanthropic community in Oklahoma City, known for his charity work and lavish lifestyle. He was part of a group, led by local businessman and Thunder majority owner Clayton Bennett, that bought the Seattle SuperSonics and relocated the franchise to Oklahoma City. In 2007, the NBA fined McClendon $250,000 after he said “We didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle. We hoped to come here.”
McClendon was driving his 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe at a “high rate of speed” Wednesday morning, Oklahoma City police department Captain Paco Balderrama said in a video posted to the department’s Facebook page.
He “went left of center” and “collided into the west embankment wall of the overpass. His vehicle was engulfed into flames immediately and he did not survive the accident,” Balderrama said.
“It appears that speed was most definitely a factor in the fatality,” he said. The captain said it would take one to two weeks to finish the investigation. “But at this point in time it appears pretty cut and dry as far as what exactly happened,” he said. Balderrama also said there was “no indication” that McClendon, who was going over the 40 mph speed limit, tried to stop the wreck, according to The Oklahoman.
The federal indictment against McClendon alleged that he hampered competition by orchestrating a conspiracy between two large oil and gas companies to not bid against each other for the purchase of certain oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma. The alleged scheme, which ran from December 2007 to March 2012, called for arranging in advance which company would win the leases. The winning bidder would then offer an interest in the leases to the other company. Leasehold interests give a lessee the right to drill and extract oil and natural gas from the land for a specified period, typically three to five years.
On Tuesday, McClendon issued a defiant statement, saying the indictment was “wrong and unprecedented” and that he was “singled out.”
“All my life I have worked to create jobs in Oklahoma, grow its economy, and to provide abundant and affordable energy to all Americans. I am proud of my track record in this industry, and I will fight to prove my innocence and to clear my name,” he said. The charge against McClendon, the U.S. Department of Justice said, is the first case in an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anti-competitive conduct in the oil and natural gas industry.
McClendon and his wife have three adult children: Jack, Callie and Will.
“I’ve known Aubrey McClendon for nearly 25 years. He was a major player in leading the stunning energy renaissance in America. He was charismatic and a true American entrepreneur. No individual is without flaws, but his impact on American energy will be long-lasting,” billionaire oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens said in a statement.
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