OKLAHOMA CITY - Aubrey McClendon, who was a key member of the group that bought the Seattle SuperSonics and ultimately moved them them to Okalahoma City, died in a car accident early Wednesday morning, police told KFOR.
Police say his car hit a bridge in the Oklahoma City area. Capt. Paco Balderrama said police are still investigating the crash, but added that he was traveling at a “high rate of speed,” well over the posted speed limit.
“He pretty much drove straight into the wall,” Balderrama said. “The information out there at the scene is that he went left of center, went through a grassy area right before colliding into the embankment. There was plenty of opportunity for him to correct and get back on the roadway and that didn’t occur.”
Police say McClendon wasn't wearing a seat belt when his SUV slammed into a concrete embankment and burst into flames.
Balderrama also says McClendon was traveling above the speed limit of 50 mph when his sport utility vehicle crossed the center line and crashed Wednesday.
On Tuesday, McClendon was indicted for allegedly conspiring to rig bids to buy oil and natural gas leases in Northwest Oklahoma in his former role as chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corp.
McClendon was a key member of the group that bought the Sonics in 2006 and moved them in 2008. Emails later showed that the group had discussed moving the team in private, even as they were telling the public they wanted to keep the group in Seattle.
One email sent by McClendon in 2006, soon after the purchase, had the subject line: “the OKLAHOMA CITY SONIC BOOM (or maybe SONIC BOOMERS!) baby!!!!!!!!!!”
In 2007, he was fined $250,000 by the NBA for telling an Oklahoma City newspaper “we didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle, we hoped to come here. We know it’s a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it’s great for the community and if we could break even we’d be thrilled.”
McClendon, 56, retired from Chesapeake in 2013 and became the CEO of American Energy Partners.
McClendon denied violating antitrust laws in a statement released Tuesday.
“The charge that has been filed against me today is wrong and unprecedented,” McClendon said in the statement. “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.”