Last thoughts: My Perspective of McClendon as Royalty Owner & Entrepreneur

By Keith Mauck

I remember the 2008 conference call quite well. My wife and her three siblings have 320 acres of Louisiana farm land that they hold dear, and they were curious what this Haynesville Shale might possibly mean for their farm, their Louisiana kin and the region in general — and all we needed was for Aubrey McClendon to tell us the good news. He didn’t fail them.

In stark contrast to the good news delivered that day came the news on March 2nd that Mr. McClendon was killed in a car accident outside of Oklahoma City. Speed likely was a factor in his death. Police say it appears that his 2013 Chevy Tahoe drove “straight into a wall” and burst into flames. McClendon likely died instantly. The crash occurred less than 24 hours after a federal grand jury indicted McClendon for allegedly rigging oil and natural gas leases. He denied the antitrust charges, saying “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.” He added, “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 met McClendon several years ago during a Marcellus Shale event in Pittsburgh. I found him to be charismatic and hard-driving, an uber-entrepreneur who saw the potential of the advanced technologies transforming the energy industry. Coming from the mineral owner community, I wasn’t sure how I’d be received, but upon introducing myself, he exclaimed enthusiastically, “You’re that dude!” As I walked away from the friendly exchange, my joy for the recognition gave way to a slight uneasiness that CEO McClendon knew about “a dude” who had a website. Then, that gave way to wonderment that he had the capability and desire to see the industry from bottom to top.

At age 56, McClendon was a titan in the oil and gas industry. In 1989, he and his friend Tom Ward started Chesapeake Energy in Oklahoma City with $50,000, and turned it into a multi-billion dollar powerhouse. Brash and aggressive, he was a visionary who recognized the promise of hydraulic fracturing and moved quickly to buy up mineral rights leases in shale formations.

 Under his leadership as CEO, Chesapeake became one of the largest independent natural gas producers in the country. But McClendon also took risks. At one point he invested some of his personal wealth in Chesapeake wells and used them as collateral for $1.1 billion in loans for drilling.

The move was questionable, but McClendon’s impact on U.S. energy supplies was nothing short of remarkable. Chesapeake and a small number of similar companies turned America’s energy deficit into an abundance of oil and natural gas. Today the United States is the largest oil and gas producer on the planet.

McClendon, and other wildcatters like him, are responsible for America’s energy bounty, along with all of the mineral owners who signed leases to allow drilling. Millions of royalty owners, as they are called, are benefitting from the “shale gale” by receiving payments for the oil and gas being produced on their private lands. They have told me — the publisher of GoMarcellusShale.com and GoHaynesvilleShale.com — the stipends have helped them pay their bills, pay off college loans, and grow their families.

With that said, in the community where I come from, the mineral owner community, opinions of McClendon remain mixed at best—many feel taken advantage of by business practices that began under his leadership at Chesapeake. As the price of natural gas and oil dropped, royalty check deductions became burdensome despite the fact that many landowners had contract clauses prohibiting the practice. Royalty owners of all sizes have filed suit against Chesapeake alleging this practice violates their contracts. To this day, Chesapeake continues to fight these allegations and related lawsuits. My hope remains that Chesapeake corrects its practices and makes decisions that will make royalty owners financially whole. The verdict is still out on whether this will happen.

Professionally speaking, I was saddened by McClendon’s growing absence from the public energy debate. He was a tremendous communicator and salesman for shale and it’s potential — the heir apparent to T. Boone Pickens. But, as the controversies mounted and the clouds darkened, he moved away from the spotlight to take on less visible roles.

It’s still unclear just how history will remember Aubrey McClendon but one thing is clear. He was a savvy entrepreneur who helped America transition from energy dependence toward energy independence. For that, we are grateful. My prayers and condolences go out to his family and friends.

Keith Mauck, J.D., is Publisher of GoMarcellusShale.comGoHaynesvilleShale.com and Co-Founder of ShaleCast.com.

This article was originally published in the Daily Caller.

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Francis:

SIlly me; I found the cute "quotes" around words as something you felt as "worth commenting upon".

Cruz is one US Senator out of 100, sir, and nothing else until such time as he is elected to another position, much like either one of the two other US Senators (one only resigned to take on an appointment as US Secretary of State) that he would face if he in fact becomes the Republican nominee.  Each of them have droves of supporters heavily invested in their survival and advancement, even during a presidential primary.  And reasonably or not, those supporters have certain expectancies for their patronage.

Re: your apparent contempt for strict originalists, I personally hold a similar skepticism for "living documents", where words can appear, disappear, and beget new words and phrases upon any particular reading.  I prefer my contracts (social or otherwise) to do what they say and stick to their drafted tenets.  The Constitution should be "alive" and subject to change only when the great expense of the amendment process (also contained therein) is presented and successfully paid by an extraordinary complement of the States, whose citizens and their interests being so diverse so as to only substantially agree on the very few things to which their is widespread assent.  Otherwise, we risk being ruled by whim either the mob or by those wielding the police power of the state, whether raggedly placed upon the road to hell or apparently smoothed by the utmost of good intentions.  Or, in the alternative, by branches of the government seemingly bent on the maximum possible malleability of its extent into the boundaries of its co-equal branches, and by its appetite for expanse, its extension into the lives of the governed, its consent "not even important".

So if you're wondering whether I would be more concerned about a living Senator running for higher office carrying out the personal edicts of a recently deceased individual as his dying wish...

or a couple of live Senators also running for higher office whose promises to their respective constituencies and the electorate include apportioning grander and increasing largesse from the coffers of the treasury, perpetually funded and collected by ever more agents conferred the rights of the police power of the state to enforce said governmental collections...

Yeah.  What Cruz thinks about Aubrey Mac is his own business, let the man rest in peace, and when the folks come around talking about what's free and what's fair, I'll keep watch on my back pocket.

Meanwhile, waiting for the business to improve.  Be nice to have some folks investing in some real live prospects again.

No, he will not rest in peace because the extent of his scam will slowly be exposed. Other folks are learning to watch their back pocket around arrogant landmen so you could have a long wait, even after the market for venture returns.
Francis:

I have to give it to you; you're as petty and bitter about landmen as ever. I've never had to ask for something out of a lessor's back pocket to sign a lease; ethical landmen actually pay you for your lease - I figured that wizard lawyer you always tell everyone about would have explained that to you. If you gave them money, it would explain your bitterness - and lots of other things.

My record here is simple - I have worked for landowners and industry clients in negotiating oil and gas leases. I did not take leases on behalf of industry clients for the Haynesville, which allowed me to speak impartially on these subjects.

In close to two decades of being a landman, I never worked for Chesapeake or a broker obtaining leases on their behalf. I have worked for other clients in competition with them on several occasions, and from that experience I can make these observations:

CHK was a nearly inexhaustible promoter and purchaser of their preferred prospects and leasehold within those prospects. Their mere presence and competition in an area resulted in significant premiums being paid to lessors. They drove the market in many areas, and in the Haynesville they pushed that market to multiples well beyond what was supportable by reality. Like having a loose aggressive poker player at the table, other competitors frequently put up more than even their own upper limit indications warranted for fear of losing credibility or position in the play. Thus, over and above the billions paid in bonuses, royalties and extensions by them, they coaxed and coerced other players to match offers at their own expense as well. Anybody want to give that back? I guess that didn't affect you though, Francis, your ironclad agreement drafted by your shale lawyer ensured that you didn't make any deals like that.

Is there tremendous fallout from these contracts and are dispute parties and litigation working up and down circuit and appellate courts all over the country? Absolutely. That happens when there are too many promises and not enough money. Bad actors will be punished or at least making some costly settlements in many cases (confidentially, of course, and conditional upon acceptance, wherever possible). But that is the process.

The man was tried by the shareholders of his own company, removed from the board, stripped of his perks and privileges as its founder and cut loose. His own personal wealth was fairly ruthlessly and swiftly trimmed by his creditors via margin calls on his own bad bets on company stock. He has been doggedly pursued by the Justice Department, and is now dead. What additional price should be paid by a dead man to satisfy your individual vendetta? Do you think he used death to cheat you and other people from your justice? Please, can you be more pathetic.

In re  Aubrey McClendon:  Perhaps, the Justice Department  and other National and International Law Enforcement Agencies should Investigate said Purported accident, i.e., The Timing, The Type (Intentional Crash and Explode  and Burn) usually NO residual remains).  So, there is NO confirmation of Death of Anyone.  Perhaps, this is case  of  "RELOCATION", Perhaps to Argentina  or  Perhaps Remote Island in South Pacific. "Perhaps, Agencies should, "Follow the Money Trail".  But most of all,  We should always remember GOD's Words, "Vengeance is Mine". HE said  those words to keep us (HIS children ) safe from sin, i.e., wishing and/or  saying  and/or acting mean / sinful towards one another. 

To those hurt by actions of Aubrey Mclendon:  Pray to our LORD, GOD, CHRIST JESUS.  HE  Loves you and Blesses you through anything and everything.  I  am praying for you with all my heart and all my love.   JoyBee.

Nothing is definite concerning this character. Dead, alive, whacked, or suicide, the details and involvement in the great shale hype are more murky. You can thank his schemes, along with the armies of cheated mineral owners, to make people leery of leasing agents. Can the Oil and Gas Industry have a seedier reputation? 

Francis, I have lots of small mineral tracks so I have dealt with just about every major player in the Haynesville. On only one tract did we get the big bonus ($16000 an ac. & we had ONE ac). The rest of the tracts we got way under $10000 an ac and were glad to get it. I know several people who are still grieving over their "lost" $20000 per ac. I too felt very sorry for them and thought they had been cheated; however in ALL those cases I found out more info a couple of years late. NONE had signed their lease. They all had drafts for their money but in most cases they were in groups represented by one or 2 people--in some cases it was an attorney but not in all cases. Those "representatives" of the groups were negotiating for no cost royalties or for more money. This was in late summer of 2008 and all of a sudden the nat gas market started weakening. The drafts expired. The naïve mineral owners did see the subtle changes in the markets but big corporations were watching that. When those drafts expired, they walked.  I know people today who will swear Chesapeake beat them out of $20k per ac but then they will admit that they never signed the drafts/lease and it did expire. I feel very sorry for those people. One was a friend of mine who had 5 ac. $100000 would have been a fortune to her. I found out way later that she had never signed her draft on advice of the rep from their neighborhood. Just my opinion

Cute, but I would suggest Uber in lieu of comedy. I do not know where all of you great mineral moguls go during a crash, but stay away from Tahoes.

Comedy?  That was a real show.  Covered some of the same types of strange incidences and coincidences that you purport here.  On Tru (?) TV.  Until it wasn't.

Ironically, I own a Tahoe.  Drives just fine.

Did they do an autopsy of the vehicle?

I have an SUV and 5 yrs. ago I pulled onto Youree Dr. in Shrevport on a Sat afternoon--super busy then--I pulled into traffic doing approx. 40 mph. My gas pedal started moving on its own until it was to the floor. I started tapping brakes and they didn't work ( I never thought of turning key off as I was in shock & had never had an experience like that). I tried going to neutral and went into reverse & went across 4 lanes. All this time, cars were jumping off the road to get away from me. When I went into reverse the car never lost steam. I fought that vehicle and finally aimed it to a drainage area in median where I went into a ditch with the damn thing still running full speed.. At that point I turned the engine off. People came running and wrote notes to the police officer who showed up that I fought the vehicle down Youree. My husband came to get me and HE drove it to the dealership. I was terrified to get back in the vehicle.

 Vehicles record incidents. They kept the vehicle for a week and had Ford look at it. NOTHING was recorded as ever happening per all their tests. I still have the vehicle & it has tried to do that in a minor way 3 times since then. Now I immediately pull over and turn key off or go into neutral if I am going slow. I have a history to draw on. I would never sell or trade the vehicle to anyone. I can certainly understand how that could have happened to Mr. McClendon.

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