Aubrey McClendon, the former Chesapeake Energy CEO who died tragically in a car wreck on Wednesday, was also an owner of the NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. His ownership of the team was mired in controversy, including a lawsuit from the former Seattle owner who wanted the team to stay in his city. Who else owns the Thunder team and how will McClendon’s death affect them?
Here’s what you need to know.
1. McClendon Owned About 20 Percent of the Oklahoma City Thunder
McClendon was not the full owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He owned about 20 percent of the team, as one of eight businessmen who pooled their resources to buy the team together. This group, called the Professional Basketball Club, LLC, has owned the team since 2008.
Chesapeake Energy has the naming rights to the Thunder’s arena, ESPN reported.
2. The Thunder’s Owner, Called The Professional Basketball Club, Has Eight Members Including McClendon
The Professional Basketball Club, LLC has eight members: Clayton I. Bennett, Aubrey McClendon, George Kaiser, G. Jeffrey Records, Jr., William Cameron, Robert Howard II, Jay Scaramucci, and Everett Dobson.
Clay Bennett leads the group as the chairman of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was the public face behind the team’s purchase and its work to move the team to Oklahoma. Bennett was also one of the principal owners of the San Antonio Spurs in the mid-1990s.
The PBC also owns the Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA Developmental League.
3. McClendon Helped Bring the New Orleans Hornets to Oklahoma for Two Seasons
McClendon and Bennett worked together with a different basketball team before owning the Thunder. They, along with Tom L. Ward (who founded Chesapeake Energy with McClendon) and G. Jeffrey Records, partnered with Oklahoma State to relocate the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets to Oklahoma City for two seasons after Hurricane Katrina. They offered a revenue guarantee to get the team to relocate. The Hornets changed their name to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013.
4. The Former Owners Sued McClendon and His Group for Moving the Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma
When the Professional Basketball Club, LLC purchased the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was called the Seattle SuperSonics. They purchased the team from Howard Schultz, the former owner, for $350 million. Schultz’s ownership group later sued the Professional Basketball Club, trying to get the purchase rescinded, after he realized they never planned to keep the NBA team in Seattle.
The purchase of the SuperSonics was made on the understanding that Bennett would make a good faith effort to keep the team in Seattle. However, emails later revealed that the group never had any intention of doing so and always planned to move it to Oklahoma City, according to The Seattle Times. McClendon, Bennett, and Ward talked about moving the Sonics to Oklahoma even if it meant breaching the team’s lease with KeyArena. The emails were sent back and forth after the Washington Legislature refused to authorize taxes for a new arena that Bennett had proposed for the team.
The whole fiasco started after McClendon made comments in an Oklahoma newspaper about how they didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle, but wanted to move.
The former ownership group sued to rescind the purchase and the city sued for breach of contract over breaking the KeyArena lease. A settlement with Seattle was reached, awarding the city $45 million to get out of the lease, in 2008. The owners agreed to leave the team’s name, logo and colors with Seattle.
5. Clay Bennett and the Thunder Team Released Statements Mourning McClendon’s Death
After learning about McClendon’s death, Bennett released a statement: “I am overcome with grief. Aubrey McClendon was a visionary community leader, a trusted business partner and a passionate member of the Thunder family. But more than anything, he was a brother and a dear friend. His love of his community and his desire to make Oklahoma a better place will forever inspire all of us. Louise and I offer our love and prayers to Katie and the McClendon family.”
Bob Stoops, OU coach, also shared his condolences: