OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (USA Today) – Oklahoma City Thunder part-owner Aubrey McClendon died a single-car crash on Wednesday, the day after he was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on charges of conspiring to rig bids for oil and natural gas leases.
He was 56 years old.
Most recently, McClendon was chairman and CEO of American Energy Partners and before that, he was the CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corp.
McClendon was killed when his car hit an embankment wall of an overpass in Oklahoma City. Capt. Paco Balderrama of the Oklahoma City Police Department told reporters Wednesday that McClendon “pretty much drove straight into the wall.”
Balderrama said that police will continue to investigate to determine the cause of death because drivers in accidents like this sometimes have medical episodes that lead to the wreck.
“There was a plenty of opportunity for him to correct or get back on the roadway and that didn’t occur,” Balderrama said.
McClendon was part of the group led by Clayton Bennett that bought the Seattle SuperSonics and relocated the franchise to Oklahoma City. According to Reuters, McClendon owned 19% of the team.
In 2007, the NBA fined McClendon $250,000 after he said “We didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle. We hoped to come here.”
The indictment accused McClendon and co-conspirators of suppressing and eliminating competition of bids. Two companies agreed not to bid against each other but the winner gave an interest in the leases to the losing bidder, according to the indictment.
McClendon denied the accusations.
“The charge that has been filed against me today is wrong and unprecedented,” McClendon said in a statement. “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.
“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. 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 fight to prove my innocence and to clear my name.”
The indictment does not name any companies, but it says defendants were engaged in this activity from 2007-2012. McClendon was CEO of Chesapeake at that time.
“Chesapeake is deeply saddened by the news that we have heard today and our thoughts and prayers are with the McClendon family during this difficult time.” Chesapeake said in a statement.
Chesapeake is a partner with the Thunder, paying $4 million annually for naming rights to the team’s home arena.