m., signaling you "to your desk, just like school." And other bells rang during the day signaling different duties and places to be. They didn't like people staying after 5 p.m. ("I once got reprimanded for staying until six") and worse yet, "paranoia was rampant," Pickens remembers (10). What really bothered him though was "the waste" and the fact that management would not listen or even give consideration to "alternative ideas to save the company money or find more oil" (10).
Pickens then quit and started his own company, mentioned earlier in this paper. He claims he was just a "…normal, red-blooded American guy" who got drunk once in awhile "but never two nights in a row" (13). He takes several pages to describe how he grew Mesa into an oil giant, it is worthy to note that in his first year (1964) with Mesa he had 239 investors, he issued 420,052 shares of Mesa stock, and best of all the company was "debt-free" and earned a $435,310 profit from $1.5 million in gross revenue (13). By 1968, four years later, the revenue ballooned to $6.2 million (profits were $1.4 million).
At this time Pickens began buying companies, and as referenced earlier in this paper, but he gives an insider's view of how his first corporate "raid" came about. He wanted to buy the Hugoton Production Company, a company "fifteen times bigger" than Mesa, and tried to convince the president of Hugoton (Mike Micolais) that a merger would be appropriate for both companies. The management turned down the offer of a merger, but Pickens had a "life-changing moment" in the shower that evening. "I made up my mind that I was going to try a takeover, one that would set us up for even bigger and bolder moves down the road" (15). This was the launch of a corporate raider's career. Pickens bought $1.3 million worth of Hugoton stock, and made an "unsolicited offer of Mesa securities for Hugoton stock, one share of a newly created Mesa preferred stock for each share of Hugoton common stock" (15). This move showed the market that Pickens was serious, he recalls, and moreover, in a few weeks his moves caused the "market value of Hugoton" to go from $77 million to $137 million -- "an all-time high" (15).
At that point Pickens had a 17% ownership in Hugoton, and he was the largest shareholder. When Hugoton tried to merge with Reserve Oil and Gas Company, a "dog"; and Pickens rallied the shareholders to vote against the merger. It worked. And before long Mesa owned 28% of Hugoton, and soon thereafter, in 1969, the merger with Hugoton went through. He had learned the lesson of takeovers: don't back down and leverage your own company's stock if you need to in order to become a large shareholder in the company you wish to own or merge with.
Pickens -- Rock Star?
In his book Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" energy and the Real Fuels of the Future, author Robert Bryce runs through Pickens' plan to invest in windmills in order to "…rescue America from the evil clutches of foreign oil." Pickens made a huge splash with his "multimillion-dollar media campaign" -- and clearly enjoyed basking in the spotlight like a rock star, according to Bryce. Here is a notorious oil tycoon / corporate raider being transformed into an environmental advocate. But according to Bryce, Pickens just did that to "backstop his own money-making ventures" (Bryce, 2011). In May 2008, Pickens ordered "$2 billion worth of wind turbines from General Electric" and he launched his campaign arguing that wind power was the answer to get America off foreign oil (Bryce).
The fallacy in Pickens' thinking was that using more wind power would mean "more natural gas availability for the automotive sector" instead...
It should be mentioned here that Pickens was also predicting that natural gas would become the favorite source of power for automobiles, but Bryce says Pickens "…grossly exaggerated the ability of the United States to make a quick transition to natural-gas-fueled vehicles" (Bryce).
The Pickens' fallacy continued: utility companies and operators of power plants were not going to shut down their plants in order to save gas unless it was economically smart for them to do so, Bryce insists. And so Pickens led a "gullible media and an even more gullible public to believe" the "evils" of foreign oil could be "overcome" if only the public would agree to give Pickens a few more "subsidies for his pet projects" (Bryce).
Pickens has been quite generous with his millions: a) he donated $10 million for the pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library that houses the version of Air Force One Reagan uses as president; b) he spent $50,000 airlifting abandoned pets from the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans; c) he donated $165 million to Oklahoma State University for athletic facilities; d) Pickens donated $25 million Canadian dollars to the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary (Gale, 4).
On Pickens' own website he mentions other generous donations he has made: a) in 2006, Pickens gave away $175 million and established the T. Boone Pickens Foundation, which improves the lives "through grants supporting educational programs, medical research, athletics and corporate wellness as well as at-risk youths"; b) Pickens donated $50 million to the UT southwestern Medical Center at Dallas; c) he also donated $50 million to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston; and d) Pickens donated $7 million to the American Red Cross in 2005 (www.boonepickens.com).
According to the peer-reviewed Ophthalmology Times, Pickens donated $2.3 million to the Wilmer Eye institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, which will create a "new endowed professorship" (Gale Document Number GALE/A147015185).
Pickens' Part in the Swift Boat Smear of Senator John Kerry
In the 2004 presidential election a group of conservative Vietnam veterans took large donations (reportedly much of it from Pickens) to publish a book and make a tour around the country to smear Senator John Kerry, a decorated war hero running for president as a democrat. During and after the election cycle, Pickens was approached by Vietnam vets that served with Kerry, who noted that distortions and misinformation in the book. Pickens said anyone that can prove even one lie was presented in the book would get $1 million.
The Vietnam vets, and Kerry, provided specific evidence of falsehoods, and in fact they identified "…not just one but ten lies in the group's campaign against Mr. Kerry," according to the New York Times (Zernike, 2008). Did Pickens accept the documented, verified materials, videotapes and the Navy's full military record for Kerry? No. Pickens said he was referring to the ads that the Swift Boat people were running, and not the book itself.
In conclusion, notwithstanding the incredible wealth that Pickens acquired -- by simply being smart, business-wise, and understanding how to intimidate a company in preparation for a hostile takeover -- he has shown flaws in his character that cannot be smoothed over with more money or thin excuses such as he made in the windmill misadventure and the Swift Boat scam. It was a scam, and a terrible use of money and power to smear Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran and a man well qualified to be president. There are those who say that Kerry may well have defeated George W. Bush in that election but for the negative distraction that was created by Pickens' funding of a group that promoted lies and smears. That's only speculation, of course, but Pickens' later refusal to pony up the $1 million after it was proven that the Swift Boat promotion was riddled with lies shows a character flaw, or just the fact that he is getting on in years and may be approaching senility or even dementia.
Bone Pickens. (2010). T. Boone Pickens / His Life / His Legacy / Giving Back. Retrieved January 24, 2012, from http://www.boonepickens.com/philanthropy/default.asp.
Bryce, Robert. (2011). Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" energy and the Real Fuels of the Future. Jackson, TN: PublicAffairs.
Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. (1999). Thomas Boone Pickens, Jr. Retrieved
January 24, 2012, from http://www.gale.com.
Ophthalmology Times. (2006). Wilmer receives $2.3m from…
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