Billionaire Aubrey McClendon, the founder and former chairman and CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corp., died in a single-car on Wednesday in Oklahoma City, according to multiple media reports.
The accident occurred less than 24 hours after the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the longtime oil and gas executive had been charged with conspiring to rig bids for the purchase of oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma. McClendon denied the charges.
While chief executive at Chesapeake, McClendon was instrumental in the Oklahoma City oil and giant’s entry into the Fayetteville Shale between 2006 and 2011. According to an economic impact study by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Shale companies like Chesapeake, Southwestern Energy and Exxon Mobil’s XTO Energy invested nearly $13 billion in the Arkansas between 2008 and 2012.
Chesapeake sold its Arkansas gas interests to BHP Billiton Petroleum in February 2011 for nearly $5 billion in cash. At the time, Chesapeake was the second largest stakeholder in the unconventional natural gas shale play with a leasehold position of 487,000 net acres.
At its peak under McClendon’s helm, Chesapeake’s market cap was well over $25 billion. McClendon and Tom Ward began the company in 1989 with an initial investment of just $50,000. McClendon parlayed his wealth as one of the largest Chesapeake shareholders into a number of ventures in the Oklahoma City area, including part-ownership of the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder basketball franchise.
The 56-year old Oklahoma City native retired from Chesapeake in April 2013 following controversy surrounding McClendon’s borrowing more than $1 billion against his stake in thousands of Chesapeake oil and gas wells own by the company.
At the time of his death, McClendon was founder and CEO of American Energy Partners in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued this statement on the death of the Oklahoma oil maverick: “My thoughts and prayers are with Aubrey McClendon’s family, friends and colleagues during this very difficult time. Aubrey will be remembered for his innovations in the oil and natural gas industry, his civic generosity and being a driving force to help grow economic opportunities for Oklahoma City. He was a visionary who raised the profile of Oklahoma.”