Legacy and the Aubrey Echo

by Bond Payne, Chairman/CEO Heritage Wealth Management Company

Bond Payne

Bond Payne

How can a legacy be measured?  Do you measure it in dollars, the number of friends or grandchildren you have, or maybe the edifices that bear your name?  Many of our clients have achieved financial security for themselves and their families, but as they begin to come to grips with their own mortality, they begin to think in terms of what they are leaving behind and how to best care for those they love.

When I moved back to Oklahoma City in 1993, I was looking for a job in the oil and gas industry. The economy was very slow in Oklahoma City and not much had changed since I had gone away to college.  Most of my high school friends had gone away to college and never returned due to the lack of job opportunities in Oklahoma.  However, I was fortunate enough to connect with a number of oil and gas producers who had been through the hard times and, through grit and good fortune, were still hanging on.  I would typically meet them for lunch at the Petroleum Club for a long lunch and listen to their stories about the poor condition of the industry.  Then I was introduced to Aubrey McClendon.

I met Aubrey at his office at 63rd and Western.  At the time, Chesapeake was operating out of a few small office condominiums that have now been replaced by a sprawling campus. Aubrey came out of his office, introduced himself, and we pressed on to Flip’s for lunch.  For the next thirty minutes, he peppered me with questions and talked about Chesapeake while we ate. Then we hustled back to his office and, by the time the interview was over, the whole process had taken only 45 minutes.  It was apparent to me that this guy was different.

While I did not get the job, I continued to follow Aubrey as he built Chesapeake and began to transform our community.  His employment practices and charitable giving raised the bar on every single company in town.  The community projects he funded became the cornerstones of a higher quality of life that was attractive to young workers and benefitted everyone.  He challenged us to think big, be more and do more.  His vision, leadership and irrepressible energy was inspiring to me as we grew Heritage from a small, independent trust company to become the pioneering, sustainable wealth management company in the Southern U.S with more than $12 billion under administration.

Recently, in conjunction with our redevelopment of the historic Journal Record Building, we commissioned a study of the Oklahoma City multi-family housing market.  One of the findings of the report was that Oklahoma City has one of the highest populations of millennials in the U.S.  And I’m sure you have read that millennials are believed to be a key driver of future economic growth, just as the baby boomers were in the post-war era.  It occurred to me that the reason all of the millennials are in Oklahoma City is largely because of Aubrey McClendon and his visionary transformation of the energy industry and Oklahoma City.  Without Aubrey’s vision for creating a corporate campus and community that was appealing to bright young workers, and without him raising the bar for all of us in the business community, I believe none of this would have happened.

Many of the brightest young people I encounter around town are here for two reasons:  1) they were born here and stayed here for because they got a high paying job at a dynamic company, or 2) they came here because Aubrey McClendon brought them here to work.  I have dubbed this group the “Aubrey Echo”, because I believe they will have an impact on our community that will make the unbelievable work that Aubrey did during his all-too-short life look small in comparison.  His greatest legacy will not be what he did while he was here, but the impact that he will have for generations to come.