Chesapeake CEO resumes road shows as reprimand’s sting fades

Chesapeake Energy Corp. Chief Executive Officer Aubrey McClendon will tout the company’s stock to Wall Street analysts and investors tomorrow as a board investigation of his personal finances enters its fifth month.

McClendon is scheduled to end months of self-imposed exile from industry conferences when he addresses a Barclays Plc- sponsored energy meeting in New York. In June, Chesapeake stripped the CEO of his chairman role and replaced more than half the board after revelations he took personal loans from some of the company’s biggest financiers.

McClendon has been absent from the speaker’s podium at big industry meetings since Chesapeake’s largest shareholder, Southeastern Asset Management Inc., told him to focus on operations rather than public relations in a May 7 letter. Prior to that scolding, the 53-year-old McClendon was a fixture on the energy-conference circuit, where he promoted natural gas as an alternative to coal and imported oil.

“His biggest shareholder strongly expressed a desire for McClendon to pay more attention to running the company instead of gallivanting around the world as some kind of an ambassador for natural gas,” Fadel Gheit, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., said in a telephone interview. “But like it or not, he is the image of the company.”

McClendon’s last such presentation was on April 25 at the Goldman Sachs Asset Management Conference in New York, said Jim Gipson, a spokesman for Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake. McClendon’s participation in a panel called “Energy: Can the World Fuel the Rise of the Growth Market” occurred one day before Chesapeake’s board announced an internal probe into the CEO’s use of his private stakes in thousands of company-operated wells to get hundreds of millions of dollars in personal loans.

Largest Investor

Lee Harper, a spokeswoman for Memphis, Tennessee-based Southeastern Asset Management, didn’t respond to a telephone message left at her office seeking comment for this story. Southeastern was the single largest investor in Chesapeake as of June 30 by virtue of its 13.5 percent stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Chesapeake’s market value plunged to a 3-year low in May as a glut-driven slump in gas prices slashed the company’s cash flow and forced McClendon to accelerate the pace of asset sales to help pay for its drilling program and reduce debt. Investors also battered the stock amid two federal probes of potential conflicts between his personal financial transactions and corporate duties.

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