T. Boone Pickens, the wild cat "Oracle of Oil", founder of hedge funds and philanthropists who rewrote the playbook for business rescuers has died. He was 91.
He died Wednesday of natural causes.
Pickens had been in declining health, suffered a series of strokes and a severe fall in 2017. In late 2017, he put his sprawling 100 square mile Mesa Vista Ranch in the Texas Panhandle on the market for $ 250 million, and a few months later closed he has his energy hedge fund, BP Capital, for external investors.
In a career that began with Phillips Petroleum, Pickens later continued clean energy projects in wind power and natural gas.
He was also a major Republican political donor and supported George W. Bush in the Texas gubernatorial and presidential elections. Guests at his ranch included Dick Cheney and Nancy Reagan.
He also donated more than $ 1 billion over the years, including hundreds of millions to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, which names his renovated football arena after him.
Thomas Boone Pickens Jr. was born May 22, 1928, in Holdenville, Oklahoma. His father was a "farmer" who sold rights to oil and minerals. During the Second World War, his mother was responsible for the rationing in her region as head of the local price management office.
As a 12-year-old daddy boy, Pickens started with 28 customers, but by acquiring adjacent routes one at a time he quadrupled his business.
"It was my first introduction to growing quickly through acquisitions – a talent I would perfect in my later years," he recalled on his website.
His family moved to Amarillo, Texas, where he attended high school. After graduating in 1951 from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) with a degree in geology, Pickens began working at Phillips Petroleum.
He left three years later to drill wild cat wells, first founded Petroleum Exploration with $ 2,500 in cash and $ 100,000 in borrowed money for projects in the Texas Panhandle and later the establishment of Altair Oil & Gas for exploration in Western Canada. The companies became Mesa Petroleum, which Pickens published in 1964 and became one of the largest independent oil and gas companies in the United States.
Boone Pickens, Chairman, BP Capital Management
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
"Pickens was one of thousands who drove around the oil states and used public telephone booths like their offices, hustling, looking at deals. Selling them, getting a crew together and a well drilled and, in turn, hitting oil or gas , he always dreams of making it big, really big, "Daniel Yergin wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book" The Price: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power. "
" Pickens came further than most. He was smart and sharp, with an ability to analyze and think through a problem, step by step. "
Corporate raider: & # 39; Big Oil was never the same & # 39;
Five years after the creation of Mesa, Pickens targeted Hugoton Production for a hostile takeover, as the value of Hugoton's extensive gas reserves in Kansas dwarfed the low stock price. Although Mesa was significantly smaller than Hugoton, Pickens gathered support from its shareholders by promising greater returns and better management.
During the early 1980s, Pickens took his company's raiding talents to new levels and invested in bits of undervalued oil companies and tried to take them over and make big profits even if the acquisition failed. As described on his website:
"Pickens and his young band of hungry Mesa Petroleum executives grabbed a monster and shook it as if it had never been shot before. They rode that monster and threw some, but Big Oil was never the same again. "
After accumulating more than 5% of cities' service stocks over the years, Pickens Mesa led the 1982 attempt to acquire the much larger oil company. Cities Service is countered by trying to acquire Mesa. A wild bidding war followed, with Occidental Petroleum eventually winning the Cities Service for $ 4 billion. Pickens still reaped $ 30 million in profits on its shares.
Later, Pickens made similar, but failed, attempts with Phillips Petroleum, Unocal and Gulf Oil. Gulf, one of the "seven sisters" oil giants, defended itself by turning to Chevron as its "white knight." Chevron ended up swallowing Gulf for $ 13.2 billion, but Pickens netted $ 404 million for Mesa shareholders for their Gulf stake.
Some accused Pickens of being a "greenmailer", in which an investor bought large amounts of a company and then started a takeover to raise the price before it expires. But Pickens rejected that label. "I've never looked at anyone," he said in an interview on his website.
But there was no arguing that Picken's takeover tactics made him a bundle. They also landed him on the cover of Time magazine. There he was in 1985 and behind a pile of poker chips – blue chips – and held a hand with cards decorated by oil drinks.
"He was Gordon Gekko before & # 39; Wall Street & # 39 ;, and his influence was profound," The New York Times David Gelles wrote in a January 2018 profile, referring to the villain in Oliver Stone's 1987 film.
As a corporate power driver, Pickens was the leader of the burgeoning "shareholder" movement. He founded the United Shareholders' Association in 1986 to pressure corporate executives "to give the companies back to the owners, who are the shareholders."
"I have always believed that maintaining the status quo inevitably leads to failure," Pickens wrote in a September 2017 column for Forbes. "Then the opinion was that the shareholders own the companies and the management was employees foreign to big oil companies who would rather serve as empires. I was hell bent on shaking things up. I was a disruptor before the disruptions were cool."  & # 39; Half Time & # 39; at age 68
In 1996, at 68, Pickens sold Mesa, but rather than retire, he started a new business, BP Capital Management, a hedge fund focused on the energy industry. (BP stands for his name, not British Petroleum.)
T. Boone Pickens, founder and CEO of BP Capital LLC.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
"For most people it would have ended. For me it was half time," he wrote in the Forbes column.
The hedge fund managed billions of dollars for investors until Pickens closed it in January 2018 because of its declining health.
One year after he started the hedge fund, he formed Pickens Fuel Corp. in 1997 and promoted natural gas as an alternative to gasoline. In 2007, he spent $ 100 million of his own money to launch the Pickens Plan, a campaign aimed at explaining US energy independence.
That same year, the oilman announced plans to build the world's largest wind farm – 4,000 megawatts – in the Texas Panhandle, but subsequent low natural gas prices helped track the plans. He turned his focus to get Congress to offer incentives for converting trucks from diesel to compressed natural gas. "I'm all American," Pickens said. "All energy in America beats imports."
"Yes, I am for Donald Trump"
During Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, Pickens helped fund the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" campaign that challenged John Kerry's Vietnam War record and helped undermine the Democrat's presidential bid.
He supported Republican Rudy Giuliani in 2008 and Donald Trump in 2016.
"Yes, I am for Donald Trump," Pickens declared in May 2016. "I am tired of having politicians like the president of the United States. Let's try something else. "
He supported Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty and his attempt to restrict visitors from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
"I would prevent Muslims from coming to the United States until we can put veterinary awareness on these people," he said. "Cut them off until we can find out who they are." charities for many organizations, including the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston ($ 50 million each in 2007), and his $ 165 million donation to his OSU athletic department helped fund the stadium renovation. named the complex Boone Pickens Stadium to thank him for what it said was the largest single donation ever to any university athletic department.
On Valentine's Day 2014, 85-year-old Pickens married Toni Brinker, widow of Dallas restaurateur Norman Brinker, in a small ceremony in the Mesa Vista family's chapel. His four previous marriages ended in divorce. She survives him, as well as three daughters and two sons from previous marriages.
Days after Pickens suffered "a Texas case" in July 2017, he wrote a LinkedIn post entitled "Accept (or embrace) mortality."  "Don't think for a moment that I'm sick," he wrote. "The truth is that when you are in the oil industry that I have been all your life, you live your fair share of dry holes, but you never lose your optimism. There is a story I tell about the geologist who fell by a ten when he blew past on the fifth floor he thought to himself, "So far so good." It is the way to approach life. Be the eternal optimist who is excited to see what the coming decade will give. "