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T Boone Pickens

eagle eye

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Back in the day, around 1983 or 84, there was talk about a guy named T Boone Pickens who was known as a corporate raider. He’d look for companies who had under valued stock and he’d start buying as much of that stock as he could which drove the stock prices up. The goal was to buy up as much stock as possible until he either became the majority stockholder, essentially becoming the owner of the company, or the company found a way to block him to save the company because, if Boone owned the company, he would sell off the parts, pocket a huge sum of money and move on. Either way Pickens made a boatload of money. I saw it happen to the company I worked for, Gulf Oil Corporation. Around 1983 Pickens saw that Gulf had an under valued stock, it sold for around $30 a share. Pickens started buying up Gulf stock and the ripple effect for those of us who worked for Gulf wondered what would happen if Pickens became a majority shareholder. Gulf employees here in Port Arthur were genuinely concerned about the future of our jobs. Gulf CEO Jimmy Lee found a way to save The Gulf, he worked out a deal with Chevron USA for them to buy the company and by the time the sale was finalized in 1986 Gulf stock was worth $80 a share. That was more than double the price when Pickens began buying Gulf stock. Everyone, including Pickens, who owned the stock made money and in Pickens case he made a huge profit on his investment. Pickens went from being a bad guy to a hero because of money he made everyone. Chevron won because they got access to Gulf’s huge employee pension fund and their massive oil reserves which was worth the price of the sale to the Chevron board of directors. The rest is history as they say except the Gulf Oil business made T Boone famous. The sale of Gulf Oil to Chevron changed the lives of the people who worked for the company. First, we got a big bonus for cashing in on that $80 per share stock. Gulf stock was part of the benefits package and every year there was a distribution of the stock purchased to employees who were part of the plan. Other things changed too. Our benefits package changed, in many ways the culture of the company changed, and we were able to go back to the days where we didn’t worry if our jobs would be in jeopardy. That feeling of job security didn’t last long as Chevron began downsizing in 1989 with a workforce reduction. We became familiar with terms like “golden handshake”, severance pay and PTSD some people suffered as a result of worrying about losing a job that we were all told was for a lifetime. That wasn’t T Boone Pickens fault, it was just the way the industry was evolving.


That’s my T Boone Pickens story. I never met the man but he certainly impacted my life and the lives of many others. I would say, from the 10,000 foot view of his life, he did way more good and he will be remembered more for his giving than for his business acumen, which is saying something. He was generous with his time and money. He was a billionaire who gave billions to charity and various causes. His support of his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, is almost legendary. He helped fund the new football stadium and in appreciation the school named it after him.


Obviously, this post is dedicated to Pickens who passed away yesterday at 91 years of age. Jerry Jones had been friends with Pickens since Jones was in his mid-20’s. Jones released a statement that said he would miss his old friend and he expressed his deep sympathy for the Pickens’ family from himself and the Dallas Cowboys organization.

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