Aubrey McClendon, the co-founder of Chesapeake Energy Corp who led it to become one of the world's biggest natural gas producers before he was tarred by federal anti-trust charges, died on Wednesday in a car accident in Oklahoma City, police said. He was 56.
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McClendon died one day after the U.S. Department of Justice indicted him for allegedly violating antitrust laws by colluding to rig bids for oil and gas acreage while he was at Chesapeake, which has been a central player in the U.S. fracking revolution of the past decade. He denied the charges.
McClendon resigned from Chesapeake in 2013 after a corporate governance crisis and investor concerns over his heavy spending.
He went on to start American Energy Partners, and with the help of private equity funds, made huge bets on vast oil acreage around the United States and Australia.
Police said they were investigating the cause of the crash that occurred when McClendon was driving his 2013 Chevy Tahoe. Police said the vehicle was so badly burned they were unable to tell if McClendon was wearing his seat belt.
A native of Oklahoma, he attended Duke University before starting Chesapeake with his friend Tom Ward, who went on to lead SandRidge Energy Inc for a 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," a Chesapeake spokesman said in a statement.
(Reporting by Liz Hampton, Jessica Resnick Ault and Ernest Scheyder; Writing by Terry Wade; Editing by Leslie Adler)