T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire oil tycoon who also chaired the hedge fund BP Capital, died on Wednesday, according to a statement by his foundation.
He died of natural causes, surrounded by family and friends, after recovering from a series of strokes and head injuries due to a fall in 2017, according to the statement.
Who was T. Boone Pickens?
Pickens was born on May 22, 1928, to Thomas Boone Pickens Sr. and Grace Molonson Pickens. When Grace was pregnant with Pickens, doctors warned Pickens Sr. that they would have to choose between saving the mother or the baby. But his father insisted they could save both the mother and baby through a Cesarean section.
Surgeons successfully carried out a C-section, making him the first baby born through a C-section at that particular hospital in Holdenville, Oklahoma.
Pickens grew up during the Great Depression and showed signs of entrepreneurial spirit from a young age. He had a thriving paper delivery business at the age of 12.
Pickens’ family relocated to Amarillo, Texas when he was a teenager. He was admitted to Texas A&M on a basketball scholarship but transferred to Oklahoma A&M (Oklahoma State University) after losing the scholarship.
He graduated from Oklahoma State with a degree in geology in 1951.
He started his career working as a geologist for Phillips Petroleum and later founded his own oil and gas company which became known as Mesa Petroleum. He left Mesa in 1996 at the age of 68 and started BP Capital, a commodities hedge fund.
Pickens was known as a shareholder activist in the ’80s. In 1986, he formed the shareholders’ lobby group United Shareholders Association. He was also widely known in the ’80s as a takeover operator and corporate raider.
In July 2008, he launched a grassroots campaign in which he outlined The Pickens Plan to reduce U.S. dependence on OPEC Oil by switching to natural gas.
Pickens was also the author of The First Billion is the Hardest: Reflections on a Life of Comebacks and America’s Energy Future (2009). In the book, he discussed how the country could gain energy independence.
Pickens was famous for his philanthropic work. He was one of the multi-millionaires who signed Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s The Giving Pledge. This pledge involved wealthy Americans promising to give more than half their net worth to philanthropy.
He is survived by his five children — Deborah Pickens Stovall, Pam Pickens Grace, Michael Pickens, Tom Pickens, and Liz Pickens Cordiawell — and 11 grandchildren.
What was Pickens’ net worth in 2019?
He offered his 65,000-acre Mesa Vista Ranch for sale at $250 million in 2017.
He appeared on The Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans for some years but fell out of the list in 2013. He attributed it to the fact that he gave away more than $1 billion of his fortune.
— T. Boone Pickens (@boonepickens) September 16, 2013
Forbes reported in 2014 that Pickens gave about $500 million to his alma mater Oklahoma State University, and about $165 million to the athletic department.
Pickens’ chief of staff Jay Rosser revealed Pickens planned to give away 90% of his net worth to charity when he died.