Billionaire businessman, founder and the former chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, Aubrey McClendon, died in a single-car crash on Wednesday at the age of 56. Estimated to have a net worth of $1.1 billion by Forbes, McClendon co-founded America’s second-largest natural gas producer, Chesapeake, in 1989, and had grown the company to 12,000 employees.
McClendon crashed into an embankment while traveling at a “high rate of speed” in Oklahoma City just after 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, said Capt. Paco Balderrama of the Oklahoma City Police Department. McClendon’s car caught fire “immediately” because of the wreck, and it was burnt so badly that the police could not tell if he was wearing a seatbelt, he said.
“He pretty much drove straight into the wall,” Balderrama said.
McClendon, who founded American Energy Partners, was considered to have played a major role in the U.S. shale boom.
“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. We are tremendously proud of his legacy and will continue to work hard to live up to the unmatched standards he set for excellence and integrity. We will deeply mourn his loss and please join us in expressing our condolences to his family,” American Energy Partners, a company that he founded, said in a statement.
McClendon stepped down from as the chief executive of Chesapeake in 2013. The company issued an statement regarding his demise and said that it is “deeply saddened by the news” and its “thoughts and prayers are with the McClendon family during this difficult time.”
The death also follows an announcement Tuesday that he had been indicted by a federal grand jury for turbocharging the shale revolution by buying up gas fields across the United States with conspiring to suppress prices paid for oil and natural gas leases, reports the New York Times.
“McClendon instructed his subordinates to execute the conspiratorial agreement, which included, among other things, withdrawing bids for certain leases and agreeing on the allocation of interests in the leases between the conspiring companies,” the department said in a statement.
“His actions put company profits ahead of the interests of leaseholders entitled to competitive bids for oil and gas rights on their land,” said William J. Baer, assistant attorney general for the antitrust division.
“Executives who abuse their positions as leaders of major corporations to organize criminal activity must be held accountable for their actions.”
However, the police say that it’s too early to tell if the collision was intentional. McClendon, who also owns the National Basketball Association’s Oklahoma City Thunder in part had denied the charges against him regarding the conspiracy that happened between December, 2007, and March, 2012.
“Anyone who knows me, my business record and the industry in which I have worked for 35 years, knows that I could not be guilty of violating any antitrust laws,” McClendon said in a statement Tuesday.
“I have been singled out as the only person in the oil and gas industry in over 110 years since the Sherman Act became law to have been accused of this crime in relation to joint bidding on leasehold.”
McClendon had interests which ranged far and wide. The co-owner of Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team also had a passion for French winery and antique map collection. He’s also known to be a philanthropist, having donated millions to the Sierra Club from 2007 to 2010, which raises concerns over pollution.
[Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images]