Throughout my career in Oklahoma's oil and gas industry, I've had the good fortune to develop friendships with some of our state's most visible figures, including my former business partner and good friend, Aubrey McClendon.
A recent series in The Oklahoman focused on real estate and development projects that are currently up in the air or unfinished as the leadership at Chesapeake Energy Corp. changes. What wasn't mentioned was the immense positive impact that Aubrey's vision has had on Oklahoma City. Ignored was the work that's been accomplished to date. In fact, I'd say much of the good that has happened to Oklahoma City in the past 10 years has been due to Aubrey's influence.
Consider the community support that Aubrey engineered during his time at Chesapeake. In 2012, Chesapeake donated $32 million to charitable organizations and projects throughout its operating areas nationwide, supporting community development, health, education and social services. In Oklahoma alone, that number totaled $24 million. Companywide United Way contributions were $6.3 million in 2012, with $5.5 million raised for the United Way's Central Oklahoma chapter alone, by far the largest single contribution to the $22.2 million campaign.
Recently, Chesapeake provided a $1 million match to Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, the largest matching gift challenge in the organization's history. That's not counting his personal contributions.
Not only is he an incredible supporter of our nonprofits, his efforts, both as CEO of Chesapeake and as a community leader, have stimulated the city's economy and brought Okahoma City and the state to a level of national attention. As a part owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Aubrey has given us an incredibly talented team of players to support. Ticket sales and other revenue generated from the Thunder have been a tremendous boon to Oklahoma City's economy.
Aubrey helped transform the area along the Oklahoma River, formerly a muddy ditch, into a top-notch training facility for rowers and kayakers, including a community boathouse. His vision for Chesapeake and its campus sparked a building boom surrounding the NW 63 and Western area, attracting the city's first Whole Foods, among many other shops and restaurants that have moved into the Classen Curve shopping centers. Chesapeake has grown to approximately 13,000 employees, who each contribute to and support the growth of our city.
Having known and worked with Aubrey for many years, I can attest to his commitment and passion for our city. To thrive, a city must have visionaries who are willing to step outside of their own boundaries and take the risks necessary to change mindsets and establish newer, broader norms. Aubrey is that kind of visionary.
The people of Oklahoma City owe him, at a minimum, a word of thanks. His contributions will be felt by the city for a long time; his leadership will continue even after his time at Chesapeake. We can only hope that the new management and other leaders will share his vision and commitment to our city.
Ward, the former Chesapeake executive and co-founder, is CEO of SandRidge Energy Inc.