Christopher Cline, the billionaire coal tycoon best known for reviving Illinois’s mining industry and making a fortune doing it, died in a helicopter crash Thursday — just a day shy of his 61st birthday.
Cline died in an accident off the coast of the Bahamas that also killed six other people, Brian Glasser, an attorney who represented Cline, said by telephone. He was a founder of St. Louis, Missouri-based coal miner Foresight Energy LP, a joint venture with Robert Murray’s Murray Energy Corp.
Cline was born into coal. His grandfather dug up the rock with a pickax, and he himself started working the mines at 22. Ten years later, he founded the Cline Group to extract coal from beneath the hollows and rolling hills of Appalachia. He created St. Louis-based Foresight to expand into Illinois in 2006. At its peak, the company was valued at more than $2.6 billion.
“Chris Cline built an empire and on every occasion was always there to give,” West Virginia Governor — and fellow coal miner — Jim Justice said on Twitter.
Foresight and Cline Group didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment left late Thursday. Glasser said Cline’s team was in touch with Foresight Chief Executive Officer Robert Moore. “Chris had total confidence in Rob Moore, and that remains,” he said.