During the course of the past week, I’ve looked closely – perhaps too closely – behind the curtain which surrounds Aubrey McClendon and his company, Chesapeake Energy.
Let me blunt – I don’t like McClendon. I don’t think anyone reading this site would struggle to understand that, any more than they would struggle to understand my reasons. He’s a cold, manipulative man who believes the government has every right to interject itself into marriage, that privacy laws are as disposable as toilet paper, and that the environment is as easily replenished as his vast wealth.
Most importantly, he has no qualms with stealing a franchise that resided in Seattle for 40 years, just because his hometown needed something to do in the winter other than watch Sooner football DVDs.
But that’s a side issue for today – this is a free nation, and the Sonics don’t belong to Seattle any more than the raindrops which fall from the sky.
Today, I want to explore the sickening relationship between McClendon’s immense wealth and his complete lack of interest in using that wealth to help whichever city his team calls home.
Let us look, first, and some of the expenses McClendon has incurred in the past two years:
1. $400 million, to state of West Virginia in damages from lawsuit
2. $1.3 billion, decrease in value of his shares of Chesapeake Energy
3. $40 million, to purchase a plot of land in Michigan, upon which he will spend hundreds of millions to build a new housing development
And now let us look at, second, how much money he has spent assisting the cities which house the Sonics/Thunder in building new stadiums:
It is a disgraceful commentary on McClendon and Clay Bennett that they can withstand the costs listed above without so much as a blink of an eye, yet when they are asked to contribute to the very buildings in which their teams will play, they run in the other direction faster than Jerome James chasing a box of doughnuts.
Further, it is a damning tribute to David Stern that he spit upon a group of investors in Seattle which was willing to contribute hundreds of millions towards building an arena here, all the while heaping praise upon Bennett and McClendon, who have yet to spend one penny of their fortunes on building new stadiums.
Tim Keown wrote recently at espn.com about how the economic malaise facing the U.S. may spell the end of publicly financed stadiums. While his words are, in my view, wishful thinking, I pray that he is correct.
The time has come for this country to quit subsidizing billionaires on the backs of taxpayers. If stadiums were such a great investment – as owner after owner tells city after city – then why are there so few owners willing to build stadiums? They certainly have no trouble coming up with the hundreds of millions to purchase the team, so why can’t they come up with at least part of the money needed to house them?
The answer is simple – because they play us for fools.
As Keown wrote, if no other benefit arises out of this meltdown in the U.S. economy, perhaps it will be worth it if people such as McClendon are finally forced to part with some of their cash, and the government gets out of the business of stadiums.