Beleaguered Chesapeake Energy Corp. is bringing in a big gun as its dealing with mounting allegations of potential wrongdoing by its founder and chief executive.
The Oklahoma City-based oil and natural gas company has hired strategic communications expert George Sard, according to the Huffington Post. Sard was dubbed the “spinmeister of the apocalyse” by Portfolio magazine in 2009.
Sard’s former clients include disgraced New York Gov. Elliott Spitzer, Martha Stewart and Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernie Madoff.
Chesapeake and CEO Aubrey McClendon may not be as notorious as that trio, but McClendon has spent much of the past two weeks at the center of conflict of interest claims.
First came an April 18 Reuters report about up to $1.1 billion in personal loans secured by McClendon using his stake in the company’s wells as collateral. He used the loans to pay for his participation in the Founder Well Participation Program, which allows him to take a 2.5 percent stake in every Chesapeake well. Two of the lenders are private equity firms who also business with Chesapeake.
Another Reuters report Wednesday detailed a $200 million hedge fund operated inside Chesapeake by McClendon and co-founder Tom Ward, who is now CEO of Oklahoma City’s SandRidge Energy Inc.
The questions swirling around McClendon’s decision in those instances have pushed Chesaepeake’s stock to its lowest level in three years.
Sounds like Sard will have his work cut out for him.