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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

Category: Energy

T. Boone Pickens Interview: “We Pay For Both Sides of the War”

Texas oilman and billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens had a free-flowing conversation with Alan Murray of the Wall Street Journal.  Recently, he has spent $62 million touting the Pickens Plan for national security.  Pickens: “We’re paying for both sides of the war.”

Pickens was folksy as he recounted various business stories, reflected on energy outlook, and shared lots of stories (with his disarming Texas drawl).  It was quite interesting to contrast Rubenstein and Sachs’ commentaries on leverage with Pickens.  Both Rubenstein and Sachs warned of the perils of leverage.  Yet Pickens was worth $24 million at age 68, and a billionaire at age 70—extraordinary leverage!! 

A few standout excerpts of the conversation:

  • “It takes just as much time to do a small deal as a big deal…  My eyes were sometimes bigger than my stomach.”
  • The board of directors should be representing the shareholders, not beholden to the CEO.  Murray said “CEO used to be as comfy a job as tenured professor at a university.”
  • “I’ve always had a shade of green in me.  I want to be a good steward of the land… But the Pickens Plan is about energy security, not just the environment.”
  • Natural gas is the only resource in America that will move an 18-wheeler.  It’s cleaner, it’s cheaper, it’s abundant, and it’s ours.  We should use it instead of foreign diesel.
  • We have 2,000 Trillion cubic feet of reserve.  That is more than Russia, Iran, and Qatar. 
  • GM makes 18 natural gas passenger cars, but doesn’t make a single one in the USA
  • An audience member asked why Pickens is focused on trying to change the politicians’ minds versus changing young peoples’ mindsets. “We need leadership.  If you have the right leadership in Washington or a university, then we can get things on track.  If you don’t have leadership, things drift.”
  • Pickens’ lessons: don’t manage, lead; hire people better than you are.  “I am a really good team builder.  I chant a lot.”
  • “We are buying oil from countries that really don’t like us.  We’re paying for both sides of the war.”

The audience:

  • @chiefhotmomma Oil man T Boone Pickens has made billions, but the audience claps when he mentions his kids & grandkids http://ad.vu/vdsu #WBF09
  • @DonPeppers #wbf09 Pickens: wind power won’t help reduce use of oil really. But plenty of natural gas to do transport AND power generation
  • @Renee_Innosight T Boone Pickens is such a Texan – “how does this connect?” he’s asked. Answer: “I have no idea.” Storytelling for sake of good story! 
  • @AspenDentalJobs TBoones: Everyone claims that they’re an environmentalist but once the costs come in, they bail #wbf09
  • @KenMcArthur You can make it to the finish line on 24 million – T. Boone Pickens #WBF09
  • @bhc3 Pickens: I wasn’t raised to retire. (He’s 78). #wbf09
  • @steveroesler: Pickens: If we go forward with no energy plan, in 10 years we’ll import 75% of oil at $300/barrel. #wbf09
  • @rjmac: T Boone Pickens at #wbf09:: hire, motivate, and lead people better than you are #wbf09
  • @stu Pickens: Politicians would listen to a rich Texan, but will DO something for the 1.6M people who support his plan #wbf09

Overall, great talk.  He’s still charging hard at 78!