Focusing on unconventional drilling techniques, McClendon and Ward built Chesapeake into what is today the No. 2 natural gas producer in the United States, behind ExxonMobil Corp.
“Probably my greatest joy today knows that this company played such a leading role in industry,” McClendon said. “As a consequence, we have lower energy costs, greater prosperity, cleaner air, less foreign oil and fewer — hopefully no more — foreign entanglements.”
Wearing a rumpled white dress shirt and khaki pants, McClendon walked through the crowd, greeting employees and posing for cellphone pictures during the picnic.
The departing CEO dismissed employees early Thursday afternoon before leaving the stage to a standing ovation.
Chesapeake employee Blayne Cook sang the John Denver song “Calypso,” a tribute to explorer Jacques Cousteau, as an homage to McClendon's pioneering work in the natural gas industry.
“There's not a single one of us here today who wouldn't follow you into battle any day, anywhere,” Cook said to McClendon from the stage. “I've worked at other companies where I didn't feel like I knew the CEO or the founder of the company — the things that you do to make us part of the company matter every day.”
Adam Wilmoth, Energy Editor