Aubrey McClendon, the biggest financial backer behind Clay Bennett’s successful effort to hijack the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008, has hired a top defense lawyer in connection with a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry into loans he obtained from an investment firm doing business with McClendon’s company, Chesapeake Energy Corp.
At issue is $1.3 billion in loans made to McClendon as CEO and whether the loans posed a conflict of interest or should have been disclosed to shareholders, the Reuters news agency reported Tuesday.
Sources told Reuters that McClendon has retained Marvin Pickholz, a partner with Duane Morris and a former assistant director of enforcement with the SEC.
The board of directors of Chesapeake, after which the Oklahoma City Thunder’s arena is named, is forcing McClendon to resign his chairmanship. The board is also investigating McClendon’s relationship with all other outside contractors and banks. The company has lost 45 percent of its share value over the past year, thanks largely to the declining price of natural gas.
McClendon is best remembered in Seattle for his remarks to an Oklahoma City media outlet in which he said it was all along the intent of the ownership group, which bought the Sonics for $200 million in 2006, to move the franchise to Oklahoma City.
The claim directly contradicted Bennett’s frequent claims that he intended to keep the team in Seattle — until he was thwarted by politicians who refused to help him fund a new basketball arena. Bennett was allowed to move the team after he negotiated a $45 million settlement with the city following a six-day trial in a Seattle federal court.
The NBA fined McClendon $250,000 for his remarks, yet Bennett publicly tried to defend his longtime friend and partner by saying that McClendon couldn’t remember saying it.
In one of the most infamous quotes of Bennett’s time in Seattle, he called the episode of truth-telling by McClendon his “stroke moment.”