OKLAHOMA CITY: Chesapeake Energy, a major investor in Utica shale gas operations in Ohio, is ending a program that allowed its chief executive, Aubrey McClendon, to take personal stakes in the wells it drills as part of his compensation.
Its board will also review loans that McClendon received from outside groups that might have done business with Chesapeake in the past. He used the loans to buy his stakes in the wells.
Investors have complained about the program and the freedom Chesapeake’s board has allowed McClendon to pursue personal interests. The discovery of the loans — and a sharp drop in the company’s stock — only intensified investors’ discontent.
Analysts say the end of the program is a welcome development.
“[The program] is consistently a sticking point with investors, so this should remove that. It also highlights the board’s willingness to be more active,” said Michael Hall, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co.
McClendon’s arrangement allowed him to buy up to a 2.5 percent interest in every well Chesapeake drills for his own investment portfolio.
To pay for stakes in some new wells, McClendon borrowed money — using his stakes in existing wells as collateral — from a group that Chesapeake was negotiating with on asset sales.
Investors complained that the arrangement raised a conflict of interest. They worried that Chesapeake might have sold its assets to the firm because the firm agreed to lend McClendon money, and not because the terms of the deal were the best Chesapeake could have received.
The arrangement was not previously disclosed to shareholders.
The existence of the loans was first reported last month in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Company shares plunged last week after news agency Reuters reported McClendon borrowed as much as $1.1 billion from the firm.
Chesapeake denies a conflict of interest exists because, it says, McClendon negotiated the loans separately and did not participate in negotiations on the asset sale.
The company said Thursday that McClendon agreed to end the program that allows him to buy stakes in Chesapeake wells. The companies set up by McClendon to control his personal stakes announced Thursday the total amount owed was $846 million.