This has not been an especially good week for Chesapeake Energy chief executive officer Aubrey McClendon, who will be leaving that post — he was replaced as chairman of the board last May — on the first of April. A cloud surrounds McClendon's departure: the board has long been uneasy with his tendency to blur the line between personal and corporate finances, and his tendency to spend like there's no tomorrow, on the company and on himself. An example of both: McClendon borrowed upwards of $1 billion from EIG Global Energy Partners, which has a sizable stake in Chesapeake; as collateral, McClendon pledged his personal interest in Chesapeake wells, a perk of 2.5 percent of the take that he's been collecting for years under what is called the Founders Well Participation Program, and which he will continue to collect for at least one year more. This might not be such a problem were it not for the fact that natural gas prices have been tanking for some time, making those wells worth a lot less than they used to be.

If you ask me, McClendon's departure won't do much for Chesapeake other than produce a dead-cat bounce in the stock price, since those gas prices aren't going to be rising much, if at all, and while McClendon had sensibly shifted some of the company's emphasis to oil, which keeps inching up a little every few days, the transitional period is likely to be difficult. In Oklahoma, a gross production tax is in effect for both gas and oil, and the lower the price of the commodity, the less the state collects from this tax; while the state is in reasonably good shape, considering the depth of the ongoing recession, there exists a definite revenue pinch, and neither the governor nor the legislature is particularly adept at finding savings in the annual budget.

But what your average resident of Soonerland is going to wonder about is not Chesapeake's corporate governance, but the impact changes at the company will have on the rest of us. Under McClendon, Chesapeake's investments in Oklahoma City were huge: a corporate compound on the northside that looks like, and is about the size of, a college campus; retail and real estate surrounding the compound; all manner of charitable contributions. And then there's that whole basketball thing: not only does Chesapeake pay for naming rights at the downtown sports arena, but McClendon himself owns 19.2 percent of The Professional Basketball Club, LLC, which owns the Oklahoma City Thunder. Assuming the current Forbes estimate of $475 million as the value of the team is something close to accurate, McClendon's share is upward of $90 million. I don't think McClendon would sell: his enthusiasm for OKC basketball has gotten him into trouble before, but it presumably remains undiminished; and the team continues to make money hand over fist, despite having to pay All-Star salaries these days. This story is far from over, and who knows where it ends?

Somewhere in another universe, this has been an especially good week for Twilight Sparkle, protégée of Celestia herself and town librarian in Ponyville, who, we are now advised, will be leaving that post — no replacement has yet been named — upon her elevation to the rank of Princess some time during the current cycle of the moon. A cloud surrounds Twilight's departure: so far as we know, the five other bearers of the Elements of Harmony have not been informed of this change, and there's a definite question as to how well they'll take the news. I am especially concerned with the reaction of Rainbow Dash, who, as arguably Equestria's greatest flyer, will presumably be tasked to teach the nascent Princess how to work her new wings.

If you ask me, Twilight's coronation won't do much for Equestria other than provide employment for a few extra hooves at Canterlot Castle. In this particular world, we might be able to anticipate a temporary spike in sales of the inaction figures sold by the American firm Hasbro, which has already announced a new Twilight doll with wings. This is consistent with last season's sudden revelations regarding the long-hidden Crystal Empire, way out in the Frozen North, which prompted Hasbro to issue appropriate figures.

But what your average denizen of bronydom is going to wonder about is whether Twilight's promotion to alicorn will destroy the unity of the fandom. I don't think it will: we've already survived Derpygate, and most of us are pretty much inured to the idea that what we see in Equestria is connected with what Hasbro wants to see on its bottom line. Desert Brush, a pony who started out as a human, perhaps has the most favorable response: "There would be adjustments, surely, but I would love her even if she got busted back to Magic Kindergarten, or whatever it's called." This story is far from over, and who knows where it ends?

The Vent

#807
  1 February 2013

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