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What to Know About Natural Gas Titan Aubrey McClendon

3 minute read

The sudden death of Aubrey McClendon, the former head of oil and gas giant Chesapeake Energy, brought even more attention to recent accusations that he had played a role in rigging bids on oil and gas leases in Oklahoma.

McClendon died in a single-car crash in Oklahoma City on Wednesday less than 24 hours after his federal indictment in the case.

Here are five things to know about the energy tycoon:

1. McClendon revolutionized natural gas production

In the last decade, natural gas production has boomed in the U.S. thanks to the growth of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which has allowed drillers to capture gas in deposits that went previously untapped.

As CEO of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy, McClendon was often the face of this boom, turning the company he formed in 1989 into the second-largest natural gas producer in the U.S. In 2013, he left Chesapeake to form American Energy Partners, another large energy producer in headquartered in Oklahoma.

The boom he helped usher in, however, has busted in the last few years as global demand has dipped amid a glut of natural gas and oil on the market. The price of oil has dropped by 70% since 2014 while the price of natural gas has fallen to its lowest point since 1999.

Read more: Natural Gas May Have Trumped Coal in 2015, Report Says

2. He was being indicted on antitrust charges

McClendon was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on conspiring to rig bids of the purchase of oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma. The indictment claims that McClendon tried to get two oil and gas companies not to bid against each other over leases between December 2007 to March 2012, effectively suppressing lease prices.

McClendon released a statement Tuesday saying: “The charge that has been filed against me today is wrong and unprecedented.”

3. He helped bring the Oklahoma City Thunder to the state

McClendon was part of the ownership team that brought the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder to the state capital from Seattle in 2008. McClendon was fined $250,000 by the NBA after comments in which he said the ownership group didn’t buy the team to keep them in Seattle, which ran counter to what the NBA was saying publicly about the franchise.

4. He led a lavish lifestyle

McClendon’s net worth was estimated at $1.2 billion. He famously used some of those funds to build a renowned wine collection, which at one point reportedly included 10,000 bottles. He also owned a winery in Bordeaux, France, and had a $12 million collection of antique maps of the American Southwest.

5. His death is being investigated

McClendon died in a fiery one-car crash Wednesday morning in Oklahoma City after his S.U.V. hit an overpass. Officials say he was traveling well above the 40 m.p.h. speed limit and was not wearing a seat belt.

“There was plenty of opportunity for him to correct or get back on the roadway and that didn’t occur,” said Paco Balderrama of the Oklahoma City Police Department, according to Reuters. The accident came less than 24 hours after McClendon’s indictment. Police have not ruled out suicide.

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