Aubrey McClendon

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Aubrey McClendon

Aubrey McClendon was the founder and former CEO of Chesapeake Energy, the largest U.S. producer of natural gas, and was a strong proponent of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."[1][2]

In 2008, Forbes magazine listed McClendon as the the third wealthiest CEO in the world,[3] but by 2012 falling oil and gas prices had shrunk his net worth to an estimated $500 million.[2] In 2012, Chesapeake Energy's stockholders had removed McClendon from the leadership position.[4]

McClendon died when a car he was driving crashed on March 2, 2016, the day after U.S. prosecutors announced an indictment against him "for allegedly conspiring with a competitor to suppress land prices by rigging bids" at Chesapeake Energy, Reuters reported.[1] The crash was ruled an accident.[5]

60 Minutes Segment Featuring Aubrey McClendon

Federal Indictment Alleged Bid-Rigging Scheme

In 2015, McClendon was under investigation by the FBI, and Chesapeake reportedly had "been cooperating with authorities in return for 'conditional leniency' from the Justice Department." Reuters further reported that[1]

The indictment alleged that McClendon and the co-conspirator agreed not to bid against each other for certain parcels of land in northwest Oklahoma in order to keep prices down. In return, each party would receive a share of the property later.[1]

After McClendon's death, prosecutors moved to dismiss the indictment, but reportedly planned to continue investigating possible violations of antitrust law in the oil and gas industry.[1]

Chesapeake Settled Antitrust Case in Michigan

In 2014, Chesapeake Energy and Encana were charged by the Michigan Attorney General with violating antitrust law, and attempting to violate antitrust law. Encana agreed to a $5 million civil settlement in 2014,[6] and Chesapeake agreed to a $25 million settlement in 2015.[1] Evidence shared by prosecutors included an email exchange

between then-Chesapeake Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon and the former CEO of Calgary-based Encana, Randy Eresman. In it, McClendon is quoted as asking Eresman: "should we throw in 50/50 together here rather than trying to bash each other's brains out on lease buying?"[6]

America Energy Partners

After Chesapeake McClendon launched American Energy Partners LP, it landed roughly $1.7 billion in financing in October 2013. Most of the funds were expected to be channeled through subsidiary American Energy-Utica LLC to pick up acreage in Ohio's Utica Shale. The Energy & Minerals Group was the lead equity investor in the company's Utica offshoot.[7]

Plans for Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling in West Virginia

In an article penned on January 22, 2011, McClendon announced that his company, Chesapeake Energy, saw vast potential in the state of West Virginia as it relates to drilling for natural gas within the Marcellus Shale. He envisioned $50 billion in profit potential for his company, and saw the state's court system, as well as unqualified state workers, as obstacles in achieving this potential.

At the 2011 winter meeting for the Independent Oil and Gas Association, McClendon stated that Chesapeake Energy planned on investing some $40-50 billion in natural gas drilling in West Virginia in the next few decades. He also stated that Chesapeake had already spent some $600 million in capital investment since 2008 in the state.[8]

Fearing the possibility of drilling in West Virginia, the environmental advocacy group the Southern Environmental Law Center placed George Washington National Forest on its top 10 endangered places in the Southeast list for 2011, saying that the forest's water, wildlife and other resources could be harmed by hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from deposits of Marcellus shale.[9]

2008 Compensation Scandal

In late 2008, McClendon's wealth evaporated. "He had borrowed money to buy Chesapeake's once high-flying stock and had become the company's largest individual shareholder," reported BusinessWeek. "With Chesapeake's shares tumbling along with commodity prices, McClendon received margin calls and was forced to sell nearly all of his shares over three days. A stake that was worth $1.9 billion just a few months earlier vanished almost overnight, and McClendon said in an Oct. 10 press release that he was 'very disappointed' by having to sell."

The company bolstered McClendon's personal wealth by increasing his pay "fivefold to $100 million," purchasing "McClendon's personal art collection -- vintage maps that had been hanging in Chesapeake's corporate office -- for $12.1 million," and paying "$4.6 million to sponsor the Oklahoma City Thunder, a National Basketball Assn. team in which McClendon owns a 19% stake," acording to BusinessWeek.[10]

McClendon's 2008 compensation package was "one of the largest for any corporate executive [that] year," including "a one-time $75 million bonus, a $975,000 base salary, and $32.7 million in stock" -- "even as the company's stock price tumbled," noted the Wall Street Journal. One investor called the Chesapeake financial document describing McClendon's 2008 compensation a "shameful document" and "a near perfect illustration of the complete collapse of appropriate corporate governance." One Chesapeake shareholder, the Louisiana Police Employee Retirement System, "asked an Oklahoma state court last month to force Chesapeake to turn over records of its internal deliberations about Mr. McClendon's compensation," as "a first step toward a possible lawsuit accusing Chesapeake's board of breaching its fiduciary responsibility."[11]

American Clean Skies Foundation and

McClendon was the chair and founder of the American Clean Skies Foundation (ACSF), a Washington DC-based group "formed in 2007 to provide all the facts on clean energy -- particularly natural gas and other clean fuels such as wind and solar -- and about the need for greater energy efficiency," according to its website.[12]

In April 2008, McClendon and ACSF launched The online video channel "applied for press credentials that would place its reporters and crew inside the U.S. Capitol," according to Dow Jones. The program "Clean Skies Sunday," which was anchored by former CBS Morning News host Susan McGinnis, was also broadcast by the WJLA-7, the ABC affiliate in Washington DC. One show featured McClendon discussing a Clean Skies Foundation report that concluded "natural gas supplies are vast enough to meet current demand for more than 100 years, a key talking point by the natural gas industry in its congressional lobbying efforts."[13][14]

The program "Energy Matters," which was hosted by former oil lobbyist Denise Bode, was also broadcast on Oklahoma's News Radio 1000, KTOK. [13] was "operated by Branded News, the Oklahoma company that also runs the National Rifle Association's online television site." The news division was "part of the network, but says its activities are shielded from the foundation's influence by an oversight committee chaired by former Associated Press Chairman Burl Osborne."[13] counted among its "peer-group partners," which "advise[ed] it on select programming," Honda USA, Natural Gas Vehicles for America and natural-gas provider Clean Energy Fuels, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.[15]

Political Contributions

McClendon donated to both Republican and Democratic political candidates, though most of his donations and his major donations were to Republicans or Republican-associated groups, including the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee and Oklahoma Leadership Council; [16] and 527 groups, most notably the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, to which he contributed $250,000 in 2004.[17]

In the 2008 election cycle, Aubrey McClendon made donations to the Chesapeake Energy and Independent Petroleum Association of America political action committees; the National Republican Congressional Committee and Republicans Tom Cole, Mary Fallin, James Inhofe, John Cornyn, Mitt Romney, Tommy Thompson, Steve Pearce, John McCain and Rudolph W. Giuliani; and Democrats Bill Richardson, Chet Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Dan Boren, Barack Obama and Nick Rahall.[18]

McClendon-Owned Companies

  • Chesapeake Energy [3]
  • Seattle Sonics NBA Basketball Team [19]
  • [14]
  • [14]
  • America Energy Partners[7]


Graduate of Duke University, 1981.[3]

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

External resources

External articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 John Shiffman, Brian Grow and Michael Flaherty, "Special Report: The final days and deals of Aubrey McClendon," Reuters, March 14, 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bryan Gruley, Joe Carroll, and Asjylyn Loder, "The Incredible Rise and Final Hours of Fracking King Aubrey McClendon," Bloomberg Businessweek, March 10, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "CEO Compensation: #3 Aubrey K McClendon," Forbes, April 30, 2008.
  5. Erin Ailworth and Kevin Helliker, "Crash That Killed Aubrey McClendon Was Accident," Wall Street Journal, June 8, 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Bryan Grow, "Encana settles Michigan antitrust case, Chesapeake fights on," Reuters, May 5, 2014.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "McClendon's new venture nets $1.7B in funding," E&E, October 10, 2013.
  8. [1], Junkins, Casey. "Company To Invest $50 Billion In W.Va." The Intelligencer - Wheeling News-Register. Jan. 22, 2011.
  9. [2], Hammack, Laurence. "Va. national forestland makes endangered list." The Ronaoke Times. Jan. 19, 2011.
  10. Christopher Palmeri, "Chesapeake Energy Battles CEO Compensation Furor: After founder Aubrey K. McClendon lost his fortune in 2008, the company's board raised his pay and bought his art. Wall Street is enraged," BusinessWeek, April 29, 2009.
  11. Ben Casselman, "Chesapeake Holders Denounce CEO's Pay," Wall Street Journal (sub req'd), April 28, 2009.
  12. "Your Gift Will Have a Lasting Impact", American Clean Skies Foundation website, accessed May 2008.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Siobhan Hughes, "CleanSkies.TV Enjoys Backing of Top Natural Gas Executive," Dow Jones (sub req'd), August 8, 2008.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Press release, "American Clean Skies Foundation Chairman Aubrey McClendon to Announce Launch Date for New CLEANSKIES.TV Network, Multi-Million Dollar Advocacy Campaign on Clean Energy and Natural Gas,& Findings from New National Polls on Clean Energy," American Clean Skies Foundation / Rational PR via PR Newswire, February 22, 2008.
  15. Mariah Blake, "Cloudy Skies," Columbia Journalism Review, January / February 2009.
  16. "Donor lookup: Aubrey McClendon, all election cycles,", accessed April 2009.
  17. "Donor search, 2004: Swift Vets & POWs for Truth,", accessed April 2009.
  18. "Donor lookup: Aubrey McClendon, 2008 cycle,", accessed April 2009.
  19. Percy Allen, "Sonics co-owner McClendon fined $250K," Seattle Times, August 23, 2007.