T. Boone Pickens

Written By
Paul Tracy
Updated August 5, 2020

Who Was T. Boone Pickens?

T. Boone Pickens (1928-2019) was a well-known oil tycoon. His first initial stands for Thomas.

T. Boone Pickens Background

Pickens was born in Oklahoma but moved to Amarillo, Texas, as a child.

He attended Texas A&M for a year but received his geology degree from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) in 1951.

Pickens had a paper route as a child and saved money from it to buy other paper routes from other children. His father was a landman in the oil business.

After college, Pickens became a geologist for Phillips Petroleum. However, he left in 1954, just three years out of college, to start his own company, which became Mesa Petroleum.

Mesa Petroleum, a producer of domestic oil and gas, was headquartered in Dallas. That company did well in Texas, and in 1959 Pickens next formed Altair Oil and Gas Company to explore for oil in Canada. Years later, and with a much bigger oil company under his belt, he diversified into cattle-feeding operations in Texas. By 1973, Mesa was the second-largest cattle feeding company in the U.S., and the cash flow from the cattle business paid for Mesa to start offshore oil exploration. The company eventually got out of the cattle business, but between 1973 and 1981, Mesa grew to assets of more than $2 billion.

Pickens soon began trying to acquire larger companies, and by the 1980s he was a well-known businessperson. Many of the proposed acquisitions never came to fruition, but they did drive up the value of the shares Pickens already owned in the targets, which netted the company millions in profits.

Pickens managed hedge funds and was behind several initiatives to increase the use of alternative energy sources. He died in September 2019.

Why T. Boone Pickens Matters

T. Boone Pickens was a legendary American businessperson who grew a fortune from humble beginnings. In some circles, he gained a reputation as a corporate raider. His influence and story are well-known in the business world.