T. Boone Pickens has passed away. CNN reports that the businessman died of natural causes on Wednesday afternoon. He was 91. Given the overwhelming success that Pickens experienced throughout his career, there are many who are curious about his fortune, and how much he was worth at the time of his death.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Pickens has an estimated net worth of $500 million. At the height of his financial prowess, his net worth was estimated at a whopping $3 billion. Read on to learn more about Pickens’ finances and how he liked to spend his money.
1. Pickens Founded Mesa Petroleum, the Largest Independent Producer of Oil In the U.S.
Pickens worked as a geologist for Phillips Petroleum, but he experienced difficulties in dealing with company bureaucracy, and he was forced to resign in 1954. He spent the next few years working as a self-employed consultant, and he went on to found the company that became Mesa Petroleum in 1956. He would eventually turn Mesa into the largest independent producer of domestic oil and gas in the United States.
By 1958, TSHA reports that Mesa had discovered eight gas and one oil well in sixteen tries. In 1960, the company acquired a Utah mining company, Standard Gilsonite, and by 1962, their wells were making over $750,000 in profits. A decade later, Mesa was reporting $92 million in revenues, $15 million in profits, and $189 million in assets. In 2014, Pickens still owned 46% interest in the company.
In his book The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power, author Daniel Yergin articulated what made Pickens such a successful businessman. “Pickens was one of thousands driving around the oil states, using public phone booths as their offices, hustling, looking at deals,” he wrote. “Selling them, getting a crew together and a well drilled and, if lucky, hitting oil or gas, dreaming all the while of making it big, really big. Pickens got farther than most. He was smart and shrewd, with an ability to analyze and think through a problem, step by step.”
2. Pickens Spent $100 Million on Launching the ‘Pickens Plan’ Energy Campaign
Pickens sold the majority of Mesa in 1996, and turned his attention towards the energy industry. He founded BP Capital Management in 1997, which was a hedge fund focusing on the energy industry and its associated investors. He founded Pickens Fuel Corp. the same year, which promoted natural gas as an alternative to gasoline.
In 2007, Pickens spent $100 million of his own money to launch the Pickens Plan. The campaign was meant to wean America off its dependence on foreign oil, and find a better energy alternative. “I know this is uncomfortable, but when you’re dealing from one state to the next state, it can be years and years and years,” he told Forbes at the time. “We cannot do that because of the security problem for the United States, for one, and because of the cost of oil.”
Pickens was forced to close BP Capital Management in 2018 due to his diminishing health. “It has been one hell of a roller coaster ride,” he said in a public statement. “I’ve seen oil prices bounce around from $10 a barrel up to $147, down to $26 and now appear to be inching up ever so slowly.” Pickens said the fund would move “move toward a family office structure,” and that key employees of BP Capital will be striking out on their own. BP Capital Management’s assets amounted to a little under $1 billion at the time of its dismantling.
3. Pickens Made Over $5 Million In Political Donations Throughout His Career
Pickens made over $5 million in political donations throughout his career. He was a vocal supporter of President George W. Bush, and he made charitable contributions to Bush’s Texas and national campaigns. Pickens’ donation for 2005 alone amounted to $250,000. During the 2004 election, he also funded television ads by a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. These ads attacked Democratic nominee John Kerry, and the claims he made regarding his military record.
In addition to his political donations, Pickens offered $1 million to anyone who could disprove the allegations that Kerry’s record in Vietnam was untrue. This was commonly referred to as the “Swift Boat” challenge. According to the Los Angeles Times, Pickens also challenged Kerry directly, and asked that he come up with his Vietnam journal, all of his military records, and copies of all tapes made during his service.
In June 2008, a group of Vietnam veterans accepted the challenge and sent a 12-page letter to rebut several of the accusations made against Kerry. Pickens responded with a message that read: “In reviewing your material, none of the information you provide speaks specifically to the issues contained in the ads, and, as a result, does not qualify for the $1 million.”
4. Pickens Donated Over $1 Billion to Charities & His Alma Mater
In 2007, Forbes estimated that Pickens’ net worth was $3 billion. He eventually slid below $1 billion, and by 2016, his net worth was listed at $500 million. This was largely due to the donations he made to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, as well as various other charities and foundations. In total, Pickens’ donations to Oklahoma State amount to $525 million, which has been evenly divided between academics and athletics.
KOLD reports that Pickens gave $100 million for endowed faculty positions to Oklahoma State, and to show their gratitude, the college named their football stadium after him. Pickens also gave $50 million each to the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Along with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, Pickens signed a “giving pledge,” which meant he promised to donate a majority of his wealth to charity. “I like making money. I like giving money away,” Pickens said. “Giving money is not as fun as making it, but it’s a close second.”
George W. Bush issued a statement following Pickens’ death, where he praised his charitable nature. “He was successful – and more importantly, he generously shared his success with institutions and communities across Texas and Oklahoma,” the former president wrote. “He loved the outdoors, his country, and his friends and family.”
5. Pickens’ Declining Health Led Him to Downsize Starting In 2017
Pickens suffered a series of small strokes in late 2016, and his declining health led him to downsize. Dallas News reports that he put his Preston Hollow estate up for sale, at $6.5 million. It sold for an undisclosed sum the following March. A few months later, Pickens put a $250 million for-sale sign on Mesa Vista, with the caveat being that he wanted it to go to someone who would carry on his conservation efforts.
“It’s no secret the past year has not been good to me, from a health perspective or a financial one,” Pickens told NBC. “Health-wise, I’m still recovering from a series of strokes I suffered late last year, and a major fall over the summer. If you are lucky enough to make it to 89 years of age like I have, those things tend to put life in perspective.”
Despite his waning health, Pickens continued to work on energy projects until his death. “I’ve thrived and profited on the volatility in the energy space,” he added. “As this chapter closes, I couldn’t be more excited at what lies ahead.”