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Be our guest!

Gazette staff October 11th, 2011

So, Forbes did a story on one of Oklahoma City’s first-tier citizens: Chesapeake CEO, chairman and cofounder Aubrey McClendon.

And this isn’t an Aubrey McClendon profile you’re likely to read in The Oklahoman.

The Forbes piece, written by Christopher Helman, starts out with McClendon eating dinner at Deep Fork Grill, which McClendon co-owns, and trying to select a wine. After relaying some of Chesapeake’s current market standing and statistics about the company, the profile refers to him as “the most admired — and feared — man in the U.S. oil patch.”

And that’s where things sort of go from glowing profile to oh-my-gosh-why-did-I-offer-this-journalist-a-dinner-and-wine?

“But he’s also the most reckless, the alpha wildcatter with an off-the-charts risk tolerance,” Helman wrote, pointing to 2008, when the value of Chesapeake shares fell considerably and recounting some of his past articles calling McClendon “dangerous” and “overpaid.”

The story states that McClendon put a charm offensive on, “threw open the doors” to Chesapeake and provided access to company executives, directors, a former state attorney general and even Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.

“Chesapeake even unilaterally moved me to a nicer hotel downtown (Forbes picked up the tab, of course),” Helman wrote. “He may have changed my room, but McClendon didn’t entirely change my view of his company.”

Helman wrote that McClendon doesn’t seem to have learned from his “near-death experience,” and after recounting some of McClendon’s career, the 2008 fall and the aftermath, Helman wrote that Chesapeake may still be over leveraged as it takes on more debt to acquire rights to more land, enough that it would take the company 30 years to drill on all of it.

“(W)hat value is it to shareholders for Chesapeake to be sitting on gas fields it won’t get around to drilling for a decade or more? Especially when every year it has to pay interest on the debt it took on to acquire the acreage. It’s like if General Electric built a factory to make LED light bulbs then just kept it in mothballs,” Helman wrote.

When some people compare Chesapeake to Enron, it sends McClendon into a “‘highly insulted’ rage,” Helman wrote.

Jim Gipson, a Chesapeake spokesman, said the company is “working with Forbes to correct a number of errors in the main online story before they print the magazine.”

Stay tuned. Chicken-Fried News will keep you apprised of the corrections.

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