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August 24, 2016

Duke U. Lays Claim to $10 Million From Oilman’s Estate

Duke University filed probate-court papers Tuesday seeking more than $9.9 million in what it says were pledges made by oil and gas magnate Aubrey McClendon before his death in March, reports The Wall Street Journal. The claim represents the unfunded portion of $18.75 million Mr. McClendon committed in recent years to the university for athletics, scholarships, and campus improvements, according to the filing.

The Chesapeake Energy Corporation co-founder died March 2 in a car crash in Oklahoma City, where he’d struck it rich as a wildcatter after graduating from Duke in 1981. He was ousted from Chesapeake three years ago over governance issues and left behind a vast array of assets and liabilities tangled up in efforts to rebuild his business empire, according to the Journal. A lawyer for M&T Bank, a major creditor, said the estate may be insolvent.

Mr. McClendon and his wife, Kathleen, met at Duke and donated more than $20 million to the university, according to a person familiar with their giving. Whatever the strength of Duke’s legal claim to the additional money, pursuing it aggressively could make the institution look bad, said Doug White, former head of the nonprofit-management program at Columbia University. “How positive is it to see a university sue a donor?” he asked.