Aubrey McClendon’s Unpaid Pledges: Duke Makes $9.9 Million Claim On CEO’s Estate


A $9.9 million claim has been filed by Duke University for unpaid pledges made by the school’s own alumnus, Aubrey McClendon. McClendon, former Chesapeake Energy CEO, died in a highway collision earlier this year before he could follow through with his purported pledges. The school’s claim filed on August 12 is just one of many claims that have been filed against the McClendon estate since his death back in March.

McClendon is one of Chesapeake’s founders and was partial owner of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. He graduated from Duke with a degree in history in 1981. Earlier this year, McClendon was killed at the age of 56 on March 2 when his SUV slammed into a wall at almost 80 miles per hour. His sudden death came just a day after he had been indicted for bid rigging by a federal grand jury.

According to Duke University, McClendon pledged a total of $18.75 million to the school for an assortment of projects including the football program, an auditorium, a student plaza, and work-study scholarships. Duke claims that $9.9 million of the former CEO’s “multiple charitable pledges” have remained unfulfilled since McClendon’s passing.

McClendon was a proud alumnus of Duke University. The school was seemingly just as proud of its former student naming a common area, tower, and plaza after the energy tycoon. So did the claim arise as the result of bad blood between school and student? According to Duke’s VP of public affairs and government relationships, the claim is simply a part of the business.

VP Mike Schoenfeld said Thursday in a statement via email that the school’s claim was a “routine transaction” submitted after getting a notice from McClendon’s estate. Schoenfeld said the notice actually urged the school to submit their claim.

“It is common for the executors of large and complex estates to solicit claims from charitable organizations with pledges that were not fulfilled at the time of the donor’s passing,” read the statement. The statement continued, “Aubrey McClendon was one of Duke’s most passionate and generous alumni…he, and his wife Katie and their three children, who all graduated from Duke, have given or pledged more than $20 million for many worthy causes at the university, from scholarships and athletics to student centers and the spectacular pipe organ in the Duke Chapel. We will always be thankful for their generosity.”

Many lenders and banks have also stepped forward to make claims against McClendon’s estate. In June, Wilmington Trust filed a claim of $464 million. In 2013, McClendon left his post as CEO at Chesapeake due to creative differences with the company’s board of directors. He had previously been a chairman for the board. Wilmington’s claim is the result of a loan allotted to McClendon in November 2014 after he withdrew from Chesapeake to form American Energy Partners. This Oklahoma City-based oil and natural gas company has since closed.

According to a notice filed in July, creditors have until September 16 to file their claims against the McClendon estate. The notice was filed by the estate’s executor, Tom J. Blalock, an attorney from Oklahoma City. On Thursday, a phone message was left for Blalock at his office that has yet to be returned.

By Briana Steptoe.

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