About Thomas Boone Pickens, Jr.
Thomas Boone Pickens, Jr. (born May 22, 1928), known as T. Boone Pickens, is an American business magnate and financier. Pickens chairs the hedge fund BP Capital Management. He was a well-known takeover operator and corporate raider during the 1980s. With an estimated current net worth of about $1.4 billion, he is ranked by Forbes as the 328th-richest person in America and ranked 879th in the world.
Pickens was born in Holdenville, Oklahoma. His father worked as an oil and mineral landman (rights leaser). During World War II, his mother ran the local Office of Price Administration, rationing gasoline and other goods in three counties. Pickens was the first child born via Caesarean section in the history of Holdenville hospital.
At age 12, Pickens delivered newspapers. He quickly expanded his paper route from 28 papers to 156. Pickens later cited his boyhood job as an early introduction to "expanding quickly by acquisition," a business practice he favored later in life.
When the oil boom in Oklahoma ended in the late 1930s, Pickens' family moved to Amarillo, Texas. Pickens never served in the military but instead attended Texas A&M on a basketball scholarship, but he lost the scholarship and transferred to Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University), where he majored in Geology. He is a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. He graduated from Oklahoma A&M with a degree in geology in 1951. Following his graduation, Pickens was employed by Phillips Petroleum. He worked for Phillips until 1954. In 1956, following his period as a wildcatter, he founded the company that would later become Mesa Petroleum.
By 1981, Mesa had grown into one of the largest independent oil companies in the world. Pickens led Mesa's first major acquisition, a takeover of the Hugoton Production Company, which was 30 times the size of Mesa. He then shifted his focus to acquiring other oil and gas companies by making solicited and unsolicited buyout bids and other merger and acquisition activity.
Pickens corporate acquisitions made him a celebrity during the "deal-making" 1980s. His most publicized deals included attempted buyouts of Cities Service, Gulf Oil, Phillips Petroleum, and Unocal. It was during this period that Pickens led Mesa's successful acquisitions of Pioneer Petroleum and the mid-continent assets of Tenneco.
These as well as other deals placed Pickens at the center of controversy during the 1980s. His celebrity rose so quickly after the Gulf Oil takeover bid that Time magazine put Pickens on the cover for the March 1985 issue. He briefly considered running for president in the 1988 elections. During this period, he was often characterized as a corporate raider and greenmailer. This is due to the fact that many of his deals were not completed, although Pickens and the shareholders he represented received substantial profits through the eventual sale of their stock as a result. His later takeover targets included Newmont Mining, a New York-based firm, Diamond Shamrock, and Koito Mfg., Ltd., a Japanese auto-parts manufacturer, making substantial gains in the process. He was also involved in the creation of the United Shareholders Association (USA), which from 1986–1993 attempted to influence the governance of several large companies. After nearly two years of periodic hearing and debate, in July 1998 the Securities and Exchange Commission voted 4–1 to approve a one-share, one-vote rule, a primary USA objective.
On the local level, Pickens chaired the Board of Regents of West Texas State University in Canyon and in 1987–1988 contributed to the restoration of the administration building known as "Old Main". He was also active in the Republican Party in Potter County. Pickens organized a campaign in the mid-1980s against the Amarillo Globe-News newspaper, for what he claimed was inaccurate reporting about his deals and Mesa. Although the newspaper owner, Morris Communications, replaced its publisher twice during the conflict, Pickens' attempts to have the paper change its editorial policy failed. Shortly thereafter, in 1989, Pickens and Mesa moved to a suburb of Dallas.
In 1997 Pickens founded BP Capital Management (then called BP Energy Fund) — the initials standing for "Boone Pickens" and not related to British Petroleum. He holds a 46% interest in the company which runs two hedge funds, Capital Commodity and Capital Equity, both of which invest primarily in traditional energy companies such as oil, natural gas, and nuclear power corporations like Halliburton, Schlumberger, and Shaw Group.
In 2006, Pickens earned $990 million from his equity in the two funds and $120 million from his share of the 20% fees applied to fund profits. In 2007, Pickens earned $2.7 billion, as BP Capital Equity Fund grew by 24% after fees, and the then $590 million Capital Commodity fund grew 40%, thanks to, among others, large positions in the stocks of Suncor Energy, ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum.
Pickens' most recent recognition comes from The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. T. Boone Pickens received the 2009 Bower Award for Business Leadership for 50 years of visionary leadership in oil and other types of energy production, including domestic renewable energy, and for his philanthropic leadership contributing to education, medical research, and wildlife conservation.
Pickens has been speaking out on the issue of peak oil, claiming that world oil production is about to enter a period of irrevocable decline. He has called for the construction of more nuclear power plants, the use of natural gas to power the country's transportation systems, and the promotion of alternative energy. Pickens's involvement with the natural gas fueling campaign is long-running. He formed Pickens Fuel Corp. in 1997 and began touting natural gas as the best vehicular fuel alternative because it is a domestic resource that, among many advantages, is cleaner-burning (Natural Gas Vehicles or NGVs emit up to 30% less pollution than gasoline or diesel vehicles) and reduces foreign oil consumption. Reincorporated as Clean Energy Fuels Corp. in 2001, the company now owns and operates natural gas fueling stations from British Columbia to the Mexican border.
Political interests and contributions
Since 1980, Pickens has made over $5 million in political donations. He was a financial supporter of President George W. Bush and contributed heavily to both his Texas and national political campaigns. In 2004, Pickens contributed to Republican 527 groups, including a $2 million contribution to the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth which ran an advertising campaign asserting that Bush's rival, John Kerry, exaggerated claims about his service in Vietnam, and $2.5 million to the Progress for America advocacy group. In 2005, Pickens was among 53 entities that contributed the maximum of $250,000 to Bush's second inauguration.
On July 16, 2007, Pickens wrote an article for the National Review supporting Rudy Giuliani for President. "In Rudy Giuliani, a gracious and committed public servant I’ve known for many years, we see that rare blend of big-picture vision and proven track record of achieving the 'impossible.' We see a forward-looking, accomplished executive eager to tackle the challenges of today’s America and ensure that tomorrow we wake up stronger, freer, and more united than ever before." Pickens was an executive-committee member of the Rudy Giuliani presidential committee.
Pickens chaired the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the American Spectator, a conservative U.S. monthly magazine covering news and politics.
Pickens has focused his advocacy on alternative energy such as solar and wind. The Washington Post says that "perhaps the strangest role" Pickens "has fashioned for himself is his current one: the billionaire speculator as energy wise man, an oil-and-gas magnate as champion of wind power, and a lifetime Republican who has become a fellow traveler among environmentally minded Democrats – even though he helped finance the 'Swift boat' ads that savaged" Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential campaign. In an editorial, the New York Times reports Pickens "has decided that drilling for more oil is not the whole answer to the nation's energy problems.
In the spring of 2010, Senator Kerry reached out to Mr. Pickens and encouraged his support of energy/climate change legislation he was drafting with Senators Lieberman and Graham. During a May 2010 meeting with reporters, Senator Kerry endorsed key provisions of “the Pickens Plan,” incorporating aspects of that in the Kerry-backed legislation calling for the greater use of domestic natural gas to replace foreign oil/diesel/gasoline in America’s heavy duty vehicle fleets.
Swift Boat challenge
On November 6, 2007, Pickens offered a million dollars to anyone able to dispute any claims made in political ads by the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth (SVPT), a group he had supported during the 2004 presidential election. John Kerry, whose military record and anti-war activism during Vietnam was the target of the group's book and media campaign, sent Pickens a letter on November 16, 2007, accepting the challenge, requesting that Pickens donate the money to the Paralyzed Veterans of America should he succeed in disproving any of the SVPT claims. In response to Kerry's acceptance of the challenge, Pickens issued a letter the same day, narrowing the original challenge to the SVPT ads, and requiring Kerry to provide his Vietnam journal, all of his military records, specifically those covering the years after his active duty service, and copies of all movies and tapes made during his service. Pickens' letter also challenged Kerry to agree to donate $1 million to the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, if Kerry "cannot prove anything in the Swift Boat ads to be untrue." Kerry later accused Pickens of "parsing and backtracking" on his initial offer and wrote that "I am prepared to prove the lie and marshal all the evidence, the question is whether you are prepared to fulfill your obligation."
On June 22, 2008, a group of Vietnam veterans who previously served with and now work with Kerry accepted the challenge and sent a 12-page letter — with a 42-page attachment of military records to support their case — to rebut several of the accusations of the Swift boat group. Pickens has responded with a message stating "In reviewing your material, none of the information you provide speaks specifically to the issues contained in the ads,” he wrote, “and, as a result, does not qualify for the $1 million."
Lobbying efforts to stop horse slaughter
Pickens lobbied for the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (HR 503) which would prohibit the slaughter for human consumption and the trade and transport of horse flesh and live horses intended for human consumption.
Attempt to sell natural gas with a California Ballot Initiative
In November 2008, California voters rejected a referendum by a 60% to 40% margin regarding natural gas. Pickens owns Clean Energy Fuels Corporation, a natural gas fueling station company that was the primary backer of the November 2008 Proposition 10 on California's ballot. Much of the measure's sale of $5 billion in general fund bonds to provide alternative energy rebates and incentives ($9.8 billion after interest) would have benefitted Pickens' company to the exclusion of almost all other clean-vehicle fuels and technology.
Pickens has given more than $700 million away to charity, of which nearly $500 million has been donated to Oklahoma State University. Pickens is among the billionaires who have made The Giving Pledge, a commitment to give away half of his wealth for charitable purposes.
Donations to Oklahoma State University
Pickens has been a major financial contributor to his alma mater, the Stillwater campus of Oklahoma State University (OSU). Through his contributions, Pickens spearheaded an initative to create an athletic village just north of the existing campus. In order to do so, hundreds of homes were acquired by the OSU administration, one via eminent domain, and demolished using Pickens' contributions.
Pickens' gift remains the largest donation to a university's athletic program in collegiate history. His total contributions to OSU come to over $400 million. Over $265 million, or 66%, of his donations have been towards athletics. Pickens also has made substantial academic gifts to Oklahoma State University, particularly to the School of Geology, which is named for him.
On December 30, 2005, Pickens made a $165 million gift to Oklahoma State University. The New York Times reported that "the money spent less than an hour on December 30 in the account of the university's charity, O.S.U. Cowboy Golf Inc., before it was invested in a hedge fund controlled by Mr. Pickens, BP Capital Management." Pickens, who is on the board of the O.S.U. Cowboy Golf, waived any management fees for the OSU monies. All profits of the fund go to growing the OSU gift. The gift is intended to help fund an upgrade of the football stadium and construction of an athletic village, but sparked controversy because OSU planned to use eminent domain to acquire residential property for the projects. The donation comes after a $70 million gift from Pickens to OSU in 2003, which was similarly structured using O.S.U. Cowboy Golf, Inc.
On July 28, 2007 the Board of Regents of Oklahoma State University approved a resolution to move $28 million from the OSU Foundation into Pickens' BP Capital Management company in Dallas. Oklahoma State has previously invested $277 million in the fund. Pickens has been waiving fees for the university's investments with his fund.
On May 21, 2008 Pickens donated $100 million dollars to academics at Oklahoma State University. The gift will be matched by the state of Oklahoma.
In October, 2008 it was reported in the NY Times that due to the recent financial recession, some of Pickens's gifts to the athletic department had seen a large decline in their market value while being managed in his hedge funds. The same NY Times article noted that due to the worldwide recession, most other schools and charitable organizations were also experiencing problems with investments. The article also mentions that Pickens' management of donated funds had previously "turned $6 million into $31 million" for the school's athletic fund.
Pickens and employees of his BP Capital LLC donated $7 million to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. The Chronicle of Philanthropy lists Pickens as among its largest charitable givers 2005 and 2006. He has donated nearly a half a billion dollars to philanthropic causes during his career.
On January 22, 2007, Pickens donated $5 million to The University of Texas at Dallas to fund educational and research initiatives in the area of brain science. Part of the donation is funding the "T. Boone Pickens Distinguished Chair in Clinical Brain Science", that is held by Dr. Denise C. Park who heads The Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas at Dallas
On May 16, 2007, Pickens donated $100 million to two University of Texas health care institutions. The gifts were donated to the UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The donations are required to grow to $1 billion within twenty-five years before they can be disbursed by the recipient institutions.
On August 23, 2007, Bizjournals.com reported that Pickens is donating $2.5 million to Happy Hill Farm Academy/Home, a residential school for at-risk children and teenagers, to build a training center and guest lodge. Pickens donated $1 million to Happy Hill Farm for the construction of a new academic campus at the residential school in February 2007.
On December 5, 2007 the Dallas Business Journal reported that Pickens had donated $6 million to Jubilee Park located at S. Carroll Avenue and Lindsley/Parry Avenue in Dallas and would man a bulldozer to begin demolition of an abandoned building across the street from a kindergarten Head Start program in Jubilee Park.
On June 20, 2008 Pickens donated $25 million to the University of Calgary's Faculty of Medicine during a visit with Calgary Flames owner Harley Hotchkiss.
On October 21, 2008, Pickens donated $5 million to the Downtown Dallas YMCA. The Downtown YMCA will now be renamed "T. Boone Pickens YMCA" in his honor. “I want this gift to encourage individuals, corporations and the entire city to make a serious commitment to fitness and health,” Boone Pickens said. “This money isn’t just helping people work out — it will revitalize this area and make the YMCA a place for the citizens of Dallas today, and will inspire our next generation to be healthy.”
In 2010, Pickens was awarded the annual, "Effecting Change" award by 100 Women in Hedge Funds.
On September 19, 2007, Pickens told CNBC that the price of oil could rise to $100 per barrel. "Demand is up and supply is flat, so it's got to go on up," said Pickens, whose company is betting on natural gas for vehicles. "I can give you an Oklahoma guarantee that natural gas will never sell above diesel and gasoline prices" as fuel for vehicles, Pickens added.
On January 2, 2008, the first contract for $100 bbl oil was sold on the NYMEX exchange. In early July 2008, the price of oil briefly closed above $145 per barrel. By the beginning of September 2008, the price of oil settled to under $110 per barrel. By October 9, 2008, the price plummeted back below $85 per barrel. As of November 21, 2008, the price of oil had fallen below $50 a barrel, mostly riding fears of a global recession.
Subsequently, in early 2009, Pickens restated during a Meet the Press interview with Tom Brokaw that he would bet $10 the price of oil would "be back to $100 a year from now". Two weeks later reporter John Stossel made a public $10,000 bet with financier T. Boone Pickens about whether or not the price of oil would surpass $100 by the first quarter of 2010. The bet ended on May 22, 2010 with the price of oil at $69.92. Pickens donated $10,000 to Stossel's charity but refused to concede total defeat, claiming he won on the futures markets and that Stossel should also donate $10,000 to Pickens' charity.
In June 2007, Pickens announced the intention to build the world's largest wind farm by installing large wind turbines in parts of four Texas Panhandle counties. The project would produce up to four gigawatts of electricity. Pickens' Mesa Power LP will undertake the construction. If completed, the farm would generate more than five times the 735 megawatts produced at the present largest such farm near Abilene, according to Susan Williams Sloan, spokesman for the American Wind Energy Association.
On August 16, 2007, Pickens' Mesa Power announced that it had filed documents with the state of Texas to add four gigawatts of electricity to the state grid. The filing with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) projected that the project would be completed in 2011 and would include up to 2,700 turbines on up to 200,000 acres (810 km2) in Roberts and adjacent counties in the Texas Panhandle. "We are now meeting with Panhandle landowners and negotiating wind lease and easement agreements," said Pickens. "We are excited at how quickly the pieces are falling into place."
On January 30, 2008, The Oklahoman reported that Pickens was ready to start buying wind turbines for the project within a month, that he planned to buy between 1,700 and 2,000 turbines, and that they will cost from $200 million to $300 million. Pickens added that he has been approached by twenty potential partners on the project but has not yet made a final decision. "We have not picked any banker and we have not picked any partner," Pickens said. "It is kind of nice ... I have decided I can get pretty far down the track before having to make those choices." Pickens predicted that similar wind farm projects could be built in the Texas Panhandle and the US-Canadian border in the future.
On May 15, 2008, Pickens' Mesa Power announced that it had placed a first order for 667 1.5-megawatt turbines from General Electric. The turbines will be delivered in 2010 and 2011.
On July 17, 2008, the Texas Public Utilities Commission approved ratepayer funding of $4.98 billion in electric transmission lines to connect wind farms in the Texas Panhandle to the electric grid. This implements the provisions of a 2005 Texas law designed to promote new wind energy projects.
On July 8, 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported that T. Boone Pickens has postponed plans to build his Texas wind farm. He said the project was stopped partly because existing transmission line capacity wasn't available. His company had planned to build new lines, but couldn't get financing. On the same date, The New York Times, reported that Pickens is committed to purchasing 667 wind turbines and will develop wind projects for them. On his Mesa Power Group website, Pickens said he expected to continue development of the Pampa project, but not at the pace originally expected.
On December 15, 2010, Nathanael Baker, in an article for www.theenergycollective.com, wrote that Pickens has scrapped plans for wind farms and will instead focus exclusively on natural gas. According to the article, on December 10, 2010, MSNBC reported that "Pickens said low natural gas prices have made utility companies view wind power as too expensive."
The Pickens Plan
On July 8, 2008, Pickens announced a major energy policy proposal, called the Pickens Plan. The plan promotes a radical reduction in the United States' dependency upon foreign energy, particularly oil provided by nations in the OPEC cartel. Although the plan calls for introduction of various alternatives to oil, including wind and solar, its major component is the conversion of the nation's commercial transport sector away from OPEC diesel to natural gas. The Pickens Plan also calls for the United States to utilize its wind corridor in the middle of the country stretching from Texas northerly through the Great Plains to the Canadian border. He noted in Congressional testimony in July 2008 that his plan would generate new jobs and provide economic stimulus to this area, while noting that it would also require new transmission lines which traditionally antagonize some environmentalists and/or nearby populations.
Critics of the plan, however, point out that it is self-serving: Pickens is a huge investor in wind power, and subsidies and mandates for wind power would help his personal financial position. The announcement of the plan also coincides with Pickens' need for federal subsidies for wind to be renewed, as he's already begun placing orders for his planned wind farm in Texas.
Pickens plans to spend $58 million on his multi-media effort to promote the Pickens Plan. Pickens multi-media campaign includes traditional media, such as newspaper and TV, and new media, such as YouTube and Facebook. The television ads for the Pickens Plan were produced by veteran Democratic political consultant, Joe Slade White.
Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, has expressed support for the Pickens Plan.
On December 27, 2009 during what is called the “Meet the Press Roundtable” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the Pickens Plan case by talking about the need for energy independence.
This discussion was in the context of the failed attack on an airliner on Christmas Day, but Bloomberg echoed what Boone Pickens has been saying for the past 17 months: the USA is funding both sides of this war and the USA is transferring its wealth to people who don’t like it very much.
Pickens’ proposal for the greater use of natural gas in heavy duty trucks and fleet vehicles is included in the NAT GAS Act (H.R. 1835 and S. 1408) and the American Power Act.
Since 2005, Pickens has been married to Madeleine Pickens, the widow of Allen E. Paulson who founded Gulfstream Aerospace. She is an activist for wild mustangs and an avid supporter of the R.O.A.M. Act to provide a sanctuary for approximately 33,000 American mustangs. They live in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of north Dallas and own a ranch along the Canadian River in the Texas Panhandle. Pickens was earlier divorced from Nelda Cain, Beatrice Carr and from Lynn O'Brien.
As of 2007, Pickens had five children and twelve grandchildren. He owns a ranch in Roberts County, Texas that has three pipelines that cross his property.
In December 2008, the Texas Legislative Conference honored Pickens as its "Texan of the Year".
In July 2009, Pickens was the subject of controversy after he had a construction crew go to his grandmother's former home in Holdenville, Oklahoma and remove a slab of driveway concrete that he had signed as a child. The current owner of the home asserted ownership, and the slab was returned. In February 2010, a judge ruled that the slab belonged to the current homeowner.
Pickens owns a Gulfstream V jet that he uses to fly to Stillwater for OSU games from his private airport near Pampa, Texas.