A new report by Julie Anewalt, a research analyst with Grubb & Ellis/Levy Beffort, looked at four possible scenarios facing Chesapeake Energy after the departure of founder and Chief Executive Officer Aubrey McClendon. With all but one scenario, the forecast predicts tough times ahead for commercial properties and retailers in the Western Avenue corridor where the company and McClendon has invested millions in shopping centers, restaurants and shops.
Scenario: No changes at Chesapeake
“Even without ownership changes, Chesapeake's spending habits will change, and the purchasing frenzy that we have experienced will slow dramatically,” Anewalt wrote.
“Company leadership has made it clear to its shareholders that it will focus more on its core business of oil and gas.”
Anewalt's report suggests some impact to stores around the Chesapeake campus due to fewer employees and pay cuts.
Scenario: Chesapeake sold in whole, but some operations remaining in Oklahoma City.
Anewalt envisions employment being reduced through attrition, early retirement and some layoffs. Jobs would be absorbed by other area energy companies and would not significantly increase unemployment.
Area retailers would see some losses due to fewer employees and possible pay cuts.
Scenario: Chesapeake split up and sold to several companies.
“This scenario would have the most detrimental impact to Oklahoma City's economy and real estate markets,” Anewalt wrote.
“Significant layoffs are possible. Those still employed with the company could be forced to leave the metro to follow job opportunities. Some, but not all, of the positions would be backfilled by other energy companies in the area.”
The report predicts higher unemployment and reduced wages would be felt by the entire retail market under this scenario, with the brunt of the retraction likely to be suffered by merchants in Nichols Hills and near the corporate campus. High-end stores across the city also would see reduced sales.
Scenario: Aubrey McClendon creates a new oil and gas company and Chesapeake Energy remains based in Oklahoma City.
“Industry analysts believe it is unlikely that McClendon will leave the energy sector,” Anewalt wrote.
“The Oklahoman reported that Aubrey McClendon is unable to enter the energy industry until June 2017, after all of Chesapeake's severance payments have been made and the six month noncompete period has been fulfilled. However, we anticipate this timetable to be pushed sooner.”
Under this scenario, the report suggests the city could end up with five large energy companies: Devon, Chesapeake, Continental Resources, SandRidge and McClendon's new company. The impact on retail and commercial development with a new McClendon company and Chesapeake surviving is “unknown.”
CONTRIBUTING: Richard Mize, Real Estate Editor