Tag Archives: Boone Pickens

Pickens’s legacy is clearly, um, checkered

I just read a New York Times story on the retirement of a Texas Panhandle legend.

T. Boone Pickens is calling it quits. He is ending his direct involvement in BP Capital, a hedge fund he created.

The story is interesting insofar as it goes. However, it misses an essential part of the checkered legacy that Pickens, an outsized oil and natural gas wildcatter, leaves behind.

I’ve written a couple of blog posts about Pickens, who I don’t know well, but he is someone with whom I’ve had some professional contact over the years. We got along well, even though I worked for the Amarillo Globe-News.

I say “even though” because that’s a part of the Pickens legacy that the NYT article overlooks.

Read the article here.

The article mentions that Pickens made his “share of enemies” during his decades in the energy and land business. He made a lot of them right here in Amarillo, the unofficial “capital” of the Texas Panhandle.

It was the late 1980s and Pickens had been the subject of some extensive media coverage in the Panhandle. The Globe-News was covering a lot of Pickens’s business activities. The paper didn’t couch its coverage of the community in a way that Pickens desired.

So, what did the energy tycoon do? He launched a boycott of the newspaper. He called on advertisers to pull their ads from the Globe-News; he implored subscribers to cancel their subscriptions; he wanted to drive the Globe-News out of business. He and his friends formed an organization with the acronym PCBAN — which stood for Panhandle Citizens for a Better Amarillo Newspaper.

Clever, yes? Whatever.

I remember reading about the boycott in Beaumont, where I worked at the time. I also remember thinking: Who does this guy think he is?

Pickens in effect declared the Globe-News the “enemy” of the community it served. Hmm. He was sort of the precursor to Donald Trump’s declaration of the media in general as the “enemy of the American people.”

Pickens took his fight into the public arena. He had plenty of allies on his side in the fight. He also engendered plenty of enmity throughout the community.

It came to a head when the then-corporate owners of the Globe-News — Morris Communications Corp. — caved in to Pickens’s demands and shipped the publisher of the paper, Jerry Huff, to another location within the Morris group of newspapers.

And on the publisher’s last day on the job in Amarillo, Pickens’s staff at the Mesa Building a few blocks away in downtown Amarillo hung a banner from the roof. It read in big letters: Goodbye, Jerry.

Classy, yes? No need to answer.

I am not going to condemn Pickens over that episode. I just thought it was helpful to present a fuller picture of the man’s legacy.

Pickens had many ups during his lengthy and highly successful business career. However, no one is perfect. Someone who made as much money as Pickens did is sure to step on his share of toes along the way.

Boone Pickens’s big footprint clearly inflicted its share of public relations damage.

Boone Pickens calls it a career … for the final time?

T. Boone Pickens is retiring.

Reportedly for the third time. Something tells me that this is it for the legendary Texas Panhandle oil and natural gas mogul.

Pickens is 89 years of age. His health has been sketchy of late. He wrote this in a letter published on LinkedIn:

“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. It’s time to start making new plans and setting new priorities.”

Pickens recently put his vast Mesa Vista estate in rural Roberts County up for sale. He’s asking about $250 million for the 80,000-acre spread.

To say this man has left a huge footprint across the Texas Panhandle would be to say that Donald John Trump has, um, “changed” the presidency of the United States.

Pickens’s influence spreads far beyond the Panhandle, the region that helped him build the beginning of his immense fortune. And along the way, he made his share of enemies as well as friends. He once engaged in a notorious feud with the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years until August 2012; Pickens’s beef with the paper predated my arrival there, but I heard all about it.

I am in neither camp. I am merely acquainted with Pickens. We have what I believe is a nice relationship. While working for a time as a “special projects reporter” for KFDA NewsChannel 10 in Amarillo, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pickens at his opulent Mesa Vista ranch.

I certainly know of the impact he has made on the region and on the world’s energy industry.

My intent with this blog post merely is to wish Pickens well as he, in his own words, begins “making new plans and setting new priorities.”

Boone Pickens: a complicated man

T. Boone Pickens is one of the most complicated human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Let me be clear about something. To say I “know” Boone can be construed as a bit of an overstatement. I do not know him well. I’ve had precisely three meetings with the legendary Texas Panhandle oil and natural gas wildcatter: two of them in Amarillo and one at his magnificent ranch in Roberts County, which he calls Mesa Vista.

Take my word for it, the view at Mesa Vista is a sight to behold.

Pickens announced recently that he is putting his ranch on the market. He’s asking a cool $250 million for the place that sprawls across 80,000 acres — give or take.

Pickens is having some health problems relating to a series of strokes he reportedly has suffered. Thus, I am sad to hear the news of his effort to sell Mesa Vista. I want nothing but the best for this individual, who has had — and this is a charitable description — something of a checkered history with Amarillo.

***

It was around 1987 when I picked up a copy of the Wall Street Journal and began reading this front-page story about a flamboyant billionaire oilman launching a boycott against the Amarillo Globe-News. I was living and working in Beaumont. My first reaction when I saw the article: Who in the hell does this guy Pickens think he is? 

Pickens didn’t like the way the Globe-News covered the news, namely as it related to him. He sought to get advertisers to quit buying ad space in the paper; he urged subscribers to quit buying and reading the paper. He became enmeshed in a serious feud with the newspaper’s publisher at the time.

The feud with the publisher escalated. Finally, Morris Communications, which owned the Globe-News at the time, reassigned the publisher, Jerry Huff, and sent him packing.

That’s when Pickens did something that remains stuck in the craw of many folks in Amarillo. He hung a banner on the side of the building he once owned in the downtown district. The banner screamed “Goodbye, Jerry.”

Pickens himself would depart Amarillo not long after that. He relocated to Dallas.

That was the Bad Boone I had heard about. He was prone to vengefulness. He could be mean. He held grudges.

When I arrived in Amarillo in January 1995, the Pickens era in Amarillo had long since passed. But not long after my arrival in the Panhandle, I made an effort to meet this man I knew only by what I had read about him.

The effort took years. I talked many times with his press aide, trying to figure out a way to sit down with Pickens, to pick his substantial brain about energy policy, about his plans to sell Panhandle water downstate, or his efforts to build massive wind farms throughout the High Plains.

Pickens’s press suggested I could go to Dallas. I would have liked to do that, but my employer — the Globe-News — wouldn’t pay my way. I then offered to meet with Pickens at a diner in Pampa. I’d even buy his lunch! No go on that offer.

Then came the opportunity to meet. I had heard that Pickens was coming to Amarillo. I called his press guy. I asked if there was a chance to meet. Two days later, I got the go ahead. Pickens would come to the Globe-News.

He came and we met for a couple of hours.

What kind of man did I encounter? He was charming, talkative, and so very friendly. He admitted it was hard for him to darken the Globe-News door, given the history he had with the paper. But we had a wonderful and quite productive first meeting.

I would meet with him a second time not long after that at the Amarillo Civic Center. That meeting was much shorter, but he was no less charming.

The third meeting would be at Mesa Vista. I had left the Globe-News in August 2012 and was working as a part-time stringer for KFDA NewsChannel 10, writing news features for the station’s website. An on-air reporter, a cameraman and I drove to the ranch and had a fantastic view of this magnificent spread.

Pickens shared with me how he was slowing down because of his age; he was in his mid-80s when we met the final time.

I wanted to share this here because of the news of his effort to sell Mesa Vista. I don’t know who is going to come up with the kind of dough Pickens is asking for his spread.

Yes, news of his selling Mesa Vista seems to signal the end of an era in the Texas Panhandle, where Pickens earned the first part of his vast fortune. He has been through many peaks and valleys with this part of the world.

I am glad — and proud — to have been able to meet and visit with  the Good Boone.

Boone has an energy plan

Boone Pickens is such a promoter.

He is especially enamored of natural gas, the rights to which he owns in abundance all across the United States, and that surely includes the Texas Panhandle, where he still lives part of the time.

http://www.pickensplan.com/boonecam/2013/07/22/high-gasoline-prices-and-the-need-for-natural-gas/

He says yet again that the recent spike in gasoline prices is caused by our nation’s habit of importing oil from overseas. He mentions specifically Venezuela and the Middle East. How does the nation bring down the price of gasoline? We need to invest in more natural gas development, the fossil fuel magnate says.

OK, he’s got a point. He trumpets the cleanliness of natural gas. Pickens says it’s plentiful. He’s indicated that natural gas reserves will outlast by a good bit the oil reserves that sit beneath the sand of, say, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

I’m willing to set aside Pickens’s vested interest in natural gas development. He stands to make a bundle — as if the gazillionaire needs more money — if we do more to develop gas reserves.

Pickens has been arguing for many years about the need to convert large-vehicle fleets — comprising long-haul trucks and buses — to natural gas. It does make sense.

People in very high places ought to take this fellow seriously. Boone Pickens does have some baggage. He’s been a controversial figure for many years. He’s made — and lost — many fortunes. But he knows the energy business better than most of us.

Yes, he’s got an enormous stake in natural gas development. That investment does not make his ideas on how to repair our nation’s energy policy any less worthwhile.