The last of the wildcatters

It couldn’t last, of course, and it didn’t: high-rolling Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon will be replaced as chairman, presumably by someone with slightly less ego — which could be just about anyone, really. There was some grumbling about the deal that gave McClendon a personal piece of every well CHK dug, but the last straw, evidently, was the revelation by Reuters that McClendon, with old partner (and now SandRidge boss) Tom Ward, was running a $200-million hedge fund out of his office on Western Avenue, and while no one is pointing to examples of legally-defined securities fraud just yet, you have to figure that the board thought McClendon, as the guy in the big chair, ought to be tending to things other than the care and feeding of McClendon.

We’ve seen this type before. Bill P. “Beep” Jennings built Penn Square Bank from a shoebox out in the parking lot of a shopping center to a national powerhouse. How big an ego? Jennings’ ATM was branded “The Beep Machine.” (Local ad tagline that won’t go away: “At Penn Square Bank, you can beep for bucks.”) Still, even Jennings might seem modest compared to the head of his oil-and-gas loan department, Bill Patterson, perhaps the world’s oldest frat boy at the time. That couldn’t last, and it didn’t: in 1982, Penn Square Bank went bust, so bust that FDIC couldn’t find anyone willing to take it off their hands. For a while, one of the most popular garments in town was the “I Survived FDIC” T-shirt, which said on the back “Fly Braniff,” the airline (founded in OKC in 1930) having failed a few weeks earlier.

So we’ll survive this demotion of Aubrey McClendon, probably because the guy who takes big risks looms large in the abbreviated history of this state.

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