Wheeling and dealing in the Marcellus

A billionaire made some billions by selling his holdings in the Marcellus Shale this week. Forbes reported on Tuesday that Philip Anschutz, who owns Anschutz Energy Corporation, unloaded all 500,000 acres of prime natural gas hydro-fracturing territory his company owns in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio to a mystery buyer. According to Forbes, a "bargain basement" price for those acres would be $4,000 apiece, making Anschutz $2 billion richer after the deal.

A Wall Street Journal article from August pointed out that Anschutz was one of three big natrual gas drilling players looking to sell this year, and offered a few guesses as to why:

The people familiar with the matter described these private operators as entrepreneurial companies whose operations are limited by their size, leading them to explore a sale to a larger player. These—and other shale operators who could follow their example—are also hoping to secure strong valuations despite a recent slump in gas prices that has made onshore drilling less profitable, they said. Another factor pushing these companies to explore a sale is expected increases in the capital-gains tax rate in 2011.

Sometimes, it's all about taxes.