I was so interested in the recent news story about of Aubrey McClendon, the billionaire who lost billions of dollars just two weeks ago (see Bankruptcy Can Loom Even For a Billionaire), I started looking around the Internet for more information about McClendon and his company Chesapeake Energy. I came across a blog with some really interesting things to say about entrepreneurs like McClendon.
To catch you up on the story, McClendon owned billions of dollars’ worth of the stock of Chesapeake. He’d bought the stock on margin, meaning with borrowed money. When the stock price fell dramatically, the lender demanded more collateral, and since McClendon didn’t have the money to repay, he needed to sell. This caused McClendon to go from multi-billionaire status to relatively modest means, all within in a matter of days.
As I began reading different articles posted online about this story, I found that many, many people had derogatory things to say. The general attitude was that McClendon was a “fat cat” and good-for-him-if-he-was-taken-down-a-peg-or-two! In other words, ordinary people were gloating about the fact a billionaire had lost money, saying that he had gotten what he deserved for being so high and mighty. Now, as I stressed in several earlier bankruptcy blogs, I’m never inclined to gloat over someone’s troubles, having worked with so many thousands and thousands of people at very painful times in their lives. In fact, I relate stories of celebrities who filed bankruptcy only to show that financial troubles can, indeed, happen to anyone. I specifically mentioned how difficult it often is for small business owners to admit that their business is no longer viable (see Business Bankruptcy – It Is What It Is).
I really liked what Eric, the “Red Dirt Dude”, had to say about the financial reversals of Aubrey McClendon. “First”, says Eric, “I’m not asking anyone to feel sorry for this man. He gambled with his money and lost, fair and square, and he should take his lumps….But let’s not overlook something very important here. Aubrey McClendon staked everything he had in a corporate venture, and over the next nineteen years built it up to create vast sums of wealth for investors, tens of thousands of jobs for everyday working people, billions of dollars in tax revenue for local, state, and federal government, while also providing a product that is vital to our society, one that keeps people warm on cold winter nights, heats their water, and cooks their food….So, love him or hate him, let’s all admit that Aubrey McClendon has a very unique kind of ability that is vital to the American economy.”
From now on, whenever a business owner who’s facing bankruptcy tells me he feels like a failure, I think I’ll share with him Red Dirt Dude’s admiration – along with my own – for the entrepreneurial spirit they displayed just by getting in and trying.