"Chesapeake Energy’s $5 Billion Shuffle"

"The energy giant raised the cash it needed to survive by slashing royalties it paid property owners to drill on their land."

"At the end of 2011, Chesapeake Energy, one of the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies, was teetering on the brink of failure.

Its legendary chief executive officer, Aubrey McClendon, was being pilloried for questionable deals, its stock price was getting hammered and the company needed to raise billions of dollars quickly.

The money could be borrowed, but only on onerous terms. Chesapeake, which had burned money on a lavish steel-and-glass office complex in Oklahoma City even while the selling price for its gas plummeted, already had too much debt.

In the months that followed, Chesapeake executed an adroit escape, raising nearly $5 billion with a previously undisclosed twist: By gouging many rural landowners out of royalty payments they were supposed to receive in exchange for allowing the company to drill for natural gas on their property."

Abrahm Lustgarten reports for ProPublica March 13, 2014.
 

Source: ProPublica, 03/13/2014