Ex-Chesapeake CEO heading new shale gas venture

LISBON – Aubrey McClendon has returned to Columbiana County after parting ways with Chesapeake Energy earlier this year.

His new venture, American Energy Partners, has been running advertisements expressing its interest in securing oil and gas leases in Jefferson, Harrison, Guernsey, Noble, Belmont and Monroe counties.

The advertisement says the company is offering “very attractive terms and we then are committed to drilling your leases as quickly as possible. Please note: We are drillers, not lease flippers!”

“The ad speaks for itself. We’re interested in local oil and gas leases,” said Robert Kelly, chief legal counsel for American Energy, when contacted Wednesday.

McClendon started American Energy in April after he retired as CEO of Chesapeake Energy, the natural gas giant he founded. This occurred after McClendon was forced out the year before as chairman by angry shareholders upset with how he was running the company.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal story, McClendon’s new company is focusing on acquiring existing leases since the vast majority of land in eastern Ohio is already under lease to other drilling companies, most of it to Chesapeake.

Another story by Columbus Dispatch quoted from the oil and gas trade publication Upstream, which reported that McClendon was focusing in counties south of where Chesapeake invested heavily in the Utica shale play, counties such as Columbiana and Carroll.

“Offset and legacy operators, landowners, leasing agents and industry sources painted a picture of McClendon lodging high bids for major parcels to put together a strong position in counties such as Guernsey, Belmont, Harrison and Noble,” the publication reported.

Upstream reported American Energy won the bidding for about 50,000 acres in Ohio under lease to Shell in Jefferson, Guernsey, Harrison and Belmont counties but has yet to conclude the deal. The Dispatch story pointed out Houston-based EnerVest has reached a tentative agreement to sell 22,535 acres in Guernsey, Harrison and Noble counties, and the speculation is American Energy is the “undisclosed buyer.”

The stories are based on conversations with industry insiders and other sources. American Energy’s Kelly pointed out they have not been giving interviews.

According to the company ads, American Energy is in partnership with Great River Energy LLC, described on its website as a privately held oil and gas development company “currently taking leases in the Appalachian region.”