Chesapeake Energy Corp filed for Chapter 11, becoming the largest US oil and gas producer to seek bankruptcy protection in recent years as it bowed to heavy debts and the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on energy markets.
The filing marks an end of an era for the Oklahoma City-based shale pioneer and comes after months of negotiations with creditors. Reuters first reported in March the company had retained debt advisers.
Chesapeake was co-founded by Aubrey McClendon, an early and high profile advocate of shale drilling who died in 2016 in a fiery one-car crash in Oklahoma while facing a federal probe into bid-rigging. Over more than two decades, McClendon built Chesapeake from a small wildcatter to a top US producer of natural gas. It remains the sixth-largest producer by volume.
Current CEO Doug Lawler, who inherited a company saddled with about $13 billion in debt in 2013, managed to chip at the debt pile with spending cuts and asset sales, but this year’s historic oil price rout left Chesapeake without the ability to refinance that debt.