Aubrey McClendon Seeks Another $2 Billion for WildcattingJoe Carroll and Bradley Olson
Aubrey McClendon, the shale wildcatter who’s raised $1 million an hour since leaving Chesapeake Energy Corp. last year, is seeking another $2 billion for oil drilling.
Energy 11 LP plans to offer 95 million common units for $20 each and 5.26 million units for $19, according to a prospectus the newly formed Fort Worth, Texas-based partnership filed today. The units will not trade on any public exchange. A subsidiary of McClendon’s American Energy Partners LP will manage all aspects of Energy 11’s business, the filing said.
With help from private equity funds and bond investors willing to buy debt that’s seven levels below investment grade, McClendon is building an empire following the same playbook he used to turn Chesapeake into a drilling powerhouse. A $1.6 billion debt offering this week made American Energy the most highly leveraged exploration company, with a debt load about 10 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, a person familiar with the matter said today.
McClendon’s new venture calls on the talents of some of his former colleagues at Chesapeake. Clifford Merritt, a former land manager for the company, and Anthony “Chip” Keating, who worked in real estate development for Chesapeake and is the son of a former Oklahoma governor, are two of the four top leaders of Energy 11’s general partner.
Energy 11 plans to acquire interests in U.S. oil and natural gas fields, including potentially in West Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, according to the filing. The entity is a so-called blind pool investment, a speculative vehicle with no assets or profits that gives investors a chance to help bankroll oil and gas wells.
The offering will terminate when all the units are sold or on Sept. 30, 2016, whichever comes first. This is the second blind pool McClendon has been associated with since he was ousted from Chesapeake amid a shareholder revolt; American Energy Capital Partners LP announced plans to raise $2 billion in December.
Energy 11’s filing allows for many of the same conflicts that brought scrutiny to Chesapeake in McClendon’s tenure, including wide latitude for competition or acquisitions among subsidiaries or affiliated companies.
American Energy plans to use the debt it raised this week, in addition to $1.15 billion of equity from management and two partner firms, to pay for the acquisition of about 63,000 acres of leasehold in the Permian Basin from closely held Enduring Resources LLC.
Moody’s Investors Service ranked the notes Caa1, a level denoting “very high credit risk.” Standard & Poor’s rated the securities an equivalent CCC+, seven levels below investment grade.