Before we sit down to a dinner of steak and fries, billionaire wildcatter Aubrey McClendonhandles the wine bottles arrayed on the table of Oklahoma City’s well-worn Deep Fork Grill. “This one’s okay, a $10 wine. Here’s another $10 wine.” He grins: “It’s up to you, Chris: We can drink cheap wine, or we can drink good wine.”
McClendon’s proposition was rhetorical. He co-owns the restaurant and had already picked the wine, which was decanted two hours ahead of time. Only the royal stuff: a 1989 Petrus, a 1989 Haut Brion and, conspicuously, a 1982 Lafite Rothschild. Easily ten grand worth of tipple.
Erudite and confident, with rimless glasses pinned to a face that looks far younger than his 52 years, McClendon is charming. And he’s not shy about spending money. Professionally, he’s combined those attributes to stunning effect, building Chesapeake Energyinto the nation’s second-biggest producer of natural gas after ExxonMobil, pumping 3 billion cubic feet per day out of the 13.7 million acres it controls—a landholding roughly equivalent to West Virginia.