Amidst the pile of complex assets and legal problems that Chesapeake Energy (CHK) founder Aubrey McClendon left behind when he died in a car crash last week: A large stake in the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, which still lists McClendon as an owner on its website.
Months before his indictment and death, however, McClendon was struggling to raise cash, and put many of his assets up as collateral—including his 20% stake in the NBA team, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
McClendon struck a deal promising his share of proceeds from the Thunder to the renowned bond investor Howard Marks’ Oaktree Capital (OAK). While that likely entitles Oaktree to potential revenue or royalties from the basketball franchise, the investment firm could only collect the “full value” of McClendon’s investment upon a sale of the stake to a new owner, the Journal reported.
Neither the Professional Basketball Club, the investment group including McClendon that owns the Thunder, nor Oaktree immediately responded to questions from Fortune about whether there are plans to put McClendon’s stake of the team up for auction. But it stands to reason that Oaktree, which specializes in distressed debt, would eventually seek to unlock the value of the NBA stake through a sale. Even if its agreement with McClendon does not grant it an actual ownership claim on the team, Oaktree could perhaps line up a buyer and broker a transaction with McClendon’s estate.
McClendon and his co-investors purchased the team a decade ago for $350 million from Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz. Today, the Thunder is valued at an estimated $950 million, with star player Kevin Durant on its roster. That would mean McClendon’s stake is worth more than what Jay Z received for selling his less than 1% stake in the Brooklyn Nets, but not nearly as much as what former Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer paid for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Either way, expect some March madness to ensue in the Thunder’s Owners’ Box.