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McClendon, shale energy pioneer, dies one day after indictment

By Shawn Price   |   March 2, 2016 at 10:13 PM
| License Photo

HOUSTON, March 2 (UPI) -- Aubrey McClendon, the larger than life pioneer of the U.S. shale energy boom, died in a fiery car crash Wednesday barely a day after he was indicted on conspiracy charges.

McClendon, 56, was indicted Tuesday on federal charges of conspiring to conceal prices for leases of oil and natural gas. Wednesday he was due to appear in court on the charges, but instead, Oklahoma City police said he smashed into a wall at a "high rate of speed" on the outskirts of the city.

"He pretty much drove straight into the wall," said Capt. Paco Balderrama of the Oklahoma City police. McClendon's 2013 Chevy Tahoe was engulfed in flames when police arrived, Balderrama said.

McClendon allegedly led a conspiracy between 2007 and 2012 in which two companies -- believed to be McClendon's Chesapeake Energy as well as SandRidge Energy -- agreed in secret who would win certain oil and gas leases, then the winner would provide interest in those leases to the other company.

"His actions put company profits ahead of the interests of leaseholders entitled to competitive bids for oil and gas rights on their land," said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division. "Executives who abuse their positions as leaders of major corporations to organize criminal activity must be held accountable for their actions."

Chesapeake said it is cooperating fully with the Justice Department and SandRidge has yet to comment.

McClendon co-founded Chesapeake in 1989 and turned it from a small company into one of the biggest natural-gas producers in the country.

He later became part of the owner of the NBA's Seattle Supersonics and helped move the team to Oklahoma to become the Oklahoma City Thunder.

McClendon eventually left Chesapeake in 2013 when angry shareholders revolted over allegations he mixed company and personal business. He founded American Energy Partners LP shortly after, less than a mile away from Chesapeake's headquarters. The new company allowed him to move into foreign business with oil and gas projects in Argentina, Australia and Mexico.

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