Duke University Files $9.9 Million Claim on McClendon Estate

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Aubrey McClendon in 2007.

Aubrey McClendon in 2007.

Photographer: Jennifer Pitts/The Journal Record via AP Photo

Oklahoma City (AP) -- Duke University has filed a $9.9 million claim against the estate of former Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon for pledges the Duke alumnus made that the university says were unpaid at the time of his death in a fiery highway crash.

The claim, which the Durham, North-Carolina-based school filed Aug. 12 in Oklahoma County District Court, is among several totaling hundreds of millions of dollars that seek part of the estate. McClendon was one of the founders of the Oklahoma City-based petroleum and natural gas exploration and production company and part owner of the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder.

McClendon, 56, was killed March 2 when his SUV smashed head-on into a bridge wall at nearly 80 mph a day after McClendon was indicted by a federal grand jury for alleged bid rigging.

Duke's claim is for "multiple charitable pledges" it says the energy magnate made to the school prior to his death for a variety of programs and projects including work-study scholarships, the football program, an auditorium and a student plaza. The total pledge amount was $18.75 million, of which about $9.9 million remains unpaid, according to the claim.

Mike Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president of public affairs and government relations, said in an emailed statement Thursday that the claim was a "routine transaction" and was submitted after the university received a notice from McClendon's estate to submit a claim for the unpaid portion of earlier pledges. McClendon graduated from Duke University in 1981 with a degree in history.

"It is common for the executors of large and complex estates to solicit claims from charitable organizations with pledges that were not fulfilled at the time of the donor's passing," the statement said.

"Aubrey McClendon was one of Duke's most passionate and generous alumni," it said. "He, his wife Katie and their three children, who all graduated from Duke, have given or pledged more than $20 million for many worthy causes at the university, from scholarships and athletics to student centers and the spectacular pipe organ in the Duke Chapel. We will always be thankful for their generosity."

Several banks and lenders have also filed claims against McClendon's estate including one filed in June by the Wilmington Trust for $464 million for a loan issued in November 2014 after McClendon had left Chesapeake and formed a new energy company, American Energy Partners, another Oklahoma City oil and natural gas company. That company has since closed.

McClendon, the former chairman of Chesapeake's board of directors, stepped down as its CEO in 2013 over differences with the company's new board of directors.

Creditors have until Sept. 16 to file a claim against the estate, according to a notice filed last month by the estate's executor, Oklahoma City attorney Tom J. Blalock. A phone message left Thursday with Blalock's office wasn't immediately returned.

The Oklahoma medical examiner's office has ruled that the crash in which McClendon died was an accident, despite speculation that it could have been suicide. Investigators said there was not enough evidence to prove that the crash was intentional.

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