The former head of Chesapeake Energy died in a car crash in Oklahoma on March 2, one day after he was indicted on antitrust charges by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Aubrey McClendon died in a single-vehicle car crash, his vehicle slammed into a wall at a speed 40-miles-per-hour in excess of the limit. It was unclear whether or not McClendon suffered a health incident that may have caused the crash. “He collided into a concrete embankment at a high rate of speed, and the vehicle was immediately engulfed in flames,” a spokesman for the Oklahoma City police department said in a statement. “It appears that speed was most definitely a factor in the fatality,” adding that it would take one to two weeks to complete the investigation.
Aubrey McClendon made a name for himself at Chesapeake Energy, turning it into the largest natural gas producer in the United States. Related: The Race Between U.S. And Australian LNG Just Started
On March 1, a federal grand jury indicted him on charges that he conspired with an unnamed company to manipulate the price of oil and gas leases in Oklahoma. The allegations described McClendon and another company deciding ahead of time who would win a lease auction, rigging the bids to keep prices low. If Chesapeake won a lease, it would give the competing company a slice of the winnings.
Chesapeake was one of the most aggressive in acquiring land during what was a land rush in the years during his tenure between 2007 and 2012. Chesapeake controlled over 16 million acres in multiple states across the country at one point. McClendon became one of the highest profile CEOs in the industry, an icon of the shale gas revolution. Related: In Risky Move Wall St. Backs Shale With Nearly $10 Billion In Equity
“The charge that has been filed against me today is wrong and unprecedented,” Mr. McClendon said in a statement following the indictment. “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.”
McClendon left Chesapeake Energy in 2012 after shareholders revolted against his management. His aggressive expansion also left the company with low levels of cash and a high debt burden. Shareholders, including activist investor Carl Icahn ousted him. After McClendon left he setup American Energy Partners LP, a competing shale gas driller that would focus on drilling in the shale basins in Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
“It is with deep sadness that AELP confirms that earlier today, its founder, Aubrey K. McClendon, died in a car accident on Midwest Boulevard in Oklahoma City,” American Energy Partners said in a statement. “We will deeply mourn his loss, and please join us in expressing our condolences to his family.”
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
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