Fiery crash kills billionaire petroleum executive day after Justice Department charges

Aubrey McClendon was charged after a federal antitrust investigation and vowed to clear his name just hours before he drove into an Oklahoma bridge

At 09.12 am on Wednesday morning Aubrey McClendon, billionaire athletics squad owned, oil executive and visionary innovator of the US fracking revolution, pretty much drove straight into a bridge on a quiet country road in Oklahoma. His 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe burst into flames instantly killing the 56 -year-old executive, who was not wearing a seatbelt.

The crash, which did not involve any other vehicles, came merely hours after McClendon, was charged by the Justice Department with conspiring to rig bidding for oil and gas contracts over several years.

McClendon, who built his former oil company Chesapeake Energy into the USs second-biggest natural gas producer with seed fund of merely $50,000, had on Tuesday night vowed to fight to demonstrate my innocence and to clear my name.

The charge that has been filed against me today is wrong and unprecedented, he said in a statement late on Tuesday night. I have been singled out as the only person in the oil and gas industry in over 110 years to have been accused of this crime in relation to joint bidding on leasehold.

Anyone who knows me, my business record and the industry in which I have worked for 35 years, knows that I could not been found guilty of violating any antitrust statutes. All my life I have worked to create jobs in Oklahoma, grow its economy, and to provide abundant and affordable energy to all Americans. I am proud of my track record in this industry, and I will oppose to demonstrate my innocence and to clear my name.

McClendon, who leaves behind his wife Katie and their three children Jack, Callie and Will, was charged following a virtually four-year federal antitrust investigation into alleged rigging of drilling rights in rural Oklahoma between at least December 2007 to March 2012. He faced up to 10 years in prison, and a maximum fine of$ 1m for each violation.

The high-rolling businessman known across America for his lavish lifestyle including extensive employ of private planes, professional basketball squad, Bordeaux vineyard and $12 m (8. 5m) antique map collection was due in tribunal on Wednesday morning. He died before he could seem.

Captain Paco Balderrama of Oklahoma City police told McClendon was driving at a high rate of velocity in a 40 mph zone where reference is pretty much drove straight into the wall.

There was plenty of opportunity for him to correct or get back on the roadway and that didnt pas, Balderrama told. The police said they were only able to identify McClendon as the driver after being contacted by the businessmans personal security guards.

Balderrama on Thursday released recordings of 911 bellows following the crash. The accident looks pretty bad, one caller told. It looks like they swerved and made[ the wall ].

Aubrey
A vehicle, in which Oklahoma City police department said former Chesapeake Energy co-founder Aubrey McClendon succumbed one day after a federal indictment, burns on Wednesday. Photograph: Cris Yelton/ Reuters

The police said it would take at least a week to determine the cause of the crash, which happened eight miles from the offices of American Energy Partners, a company McClendon setup after leaving Chesapeake under a cloud in 2013.

Business leaders praised McClendon for his vision and leadership in driving the shale fracking boom and dramatically improving the economic fortunes of Oklahoma. Ive known Aubrey McClendon for nearly 25 years. He was a major player in resulting the stunning energy renaissance in America, Texan oil tycoon T Boone Pickens told. He was charismatic and a true American entrepreneur. No individual is without flaws, but his impact on American energy will be long-lasting.

Activist investor Carl Icahn told McClendon was one of the brightest humen Ive ever dealt with. The governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, described him as a visionary who created the profile of Oklahoma.

Billy Donovan, the coach of the NBA squad Oklahoma City Thunder which McClendon helped buy out and relocate from Seattle to the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City told: In situations like this the best thing you can do is just pray, pray for the family and pray for the people involved.

McClendons part-purchase of the NBA team, previously known as the Seattle SuperSonics, from Starbucks founder Howard Schultz made him a detest figure in Seattleand is just one of several scandals blotting his staggering success.

McClendon, a history alumnu, started Chesapeake in 1981 with his friend Tom Ward. The company didnt actually get going until the shale boom hit, which McClendon foresaw, resulting him to buy up the rights to huge swaths of land in promising areas.

As the company succeeded, McClendon started spending. He bought two of his neighbours houses near Oklahoma City, a mansion on Bermudas billionaires row, and properties in Minnesota, Colorado and Maui. At one point he had wine cellars in three nations, which between them contained 100,000 bottles.

He also leased a fleet of private planes to transport executives to oil and gas fields and to take his family on holiday. One trip-up taking his family to Amsterdam and Paris cost $ 108,000 and was listed as a business expense, according to a Reuters report.

In 2011 Forbes magazine put McClendons face on its encompas with the headline: Americas Most Reckless Billionaire.

Then it all started to go wrong. Following the 2012 Reuters reports, which included claims that McClendon had personal borrowings of more than$ 1bn procured on stakes in Chesapeakes wells, investors created corporate governance concerns.

McClendon was removed as chairman in June 2012, and stood down as chief executive in January 2013 following philosophical changes with the rest of the board.

You can pick up the paper every day and read something negative about me or about the company, McClendon said during the media blizzard of coverage at the time. I would not have wished the past month on my worst foe.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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