25 March 2019
Aubrey McClendon was known as a risk taker when he was at Chesapeake. Photo: Bloomberg
Aubrey McClendon was known as a risk taker when he was at Chesapeake. Photo: Bloomberg

Energy firm chief dies in car crash a day after indictment

Aubrey McClendon, who led Chesapeake Energy Corp. to become one of the world’s biggest producers of natural gas, died in a single-car crash Wednesday, one day after being charged with breaking federal antitrust laws, police said.

The US Department of Justice announced Tuesday that McClendon, 56, had been indicted for allegedly colluding to rig bids for oil and gas acreage while he was at Chesapeake, a central player in the US fracking revolution of the past decade, Reuters reports.

He denied the charges.

Police said they were investigating the cause of the crash, which occurred when McClendon was driving his 2013 Chevy Tahoe on a sparsely populated, two-lane road.

It happened 13 kilometers from American Energy Partners, which McClendon founded and of which he was chairman and chief executive.

Police said the vehicle was badly burned in the crash and McClendon was not wearing a seat belt.

McClendon, who was revered in oil and gas circles as a risk-taking visionary, resigned from Chesapeake in 2013 after a corporate governance crisis and investor concerns over his heavy spending.

After leaving Chesapeake, McClendon went on to start American Energy Partners and, with the help of private equity funds, made billions of dollars in bets on vast tracts of oil and gas land around the United States and Australia.

Tuesday’s indictment followed a nearly four-year federal antitrust probe that began after a 2012 Reuters investigation found that Chesapeake had discussed with a rival how to suppress land lease prices in Michigan during a shale-drilling boom.

Although the Michigan case was subsequently closed, investigators uncovered evidence of alleged bid-rigging in Oklahoma.

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