Aubrey McClendon, the billionaire largely credited for jump starting America’s fracking revolution, died in a car crash in Oklahoma City on March 2. The 56-year old was driving 40 mph over the speed limit and crashed into a bridge embankment. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
As the CEO Chesapeake Energy, he helped pioneer the shale oil boom in the United States. His fall from grace was rapid: the revolution he created depressed oil prices to record lows in 2008, and by 2013, he was forced out of the company.
The accident happened less than 24 hours after he was indicted by the United States Department of Justice for rigging leases on oil and natural gas bids.
Between 2007 and 2012 McClendon had “orchestrated a conspiracy between two large oil and gas companies to not bid against each other for the purchase of certain oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma,” according to the DOJ statement.
On Tuesday, he issued a statement disputing the antitrust charges, saying he had been “singled out”.
“I am proud of my track record in this industry, and I will fight to prove my innocence and to clear my name,” the statement said.
McClendon was accused of violating the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $1 million fine. As he points out in his letter, he is the only person in the oil and gas industry to have been accused of such a crime in 110 years, since the Sherman Act – which outlawed monopolistic business practices- was signed into law.
In 1989, McClendon co-founded Chesapeake, which is now the second-largest producer of natural gas in the United States.
Before oil prices crashed, Chesapeake was valued at $36 billion. By the time McClendon stepped down, the company’s market cap was $12 billion,
After leaving Chesapeake, the oil veteran raised billions to found American Energy Partners, where he was the chairman and chief executive.