A legacy beyond big money: the influence of T. Boone Pickens

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Austin (Nexstar) – The passing of billionaire oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens is bringing a new look at his legacy in the Lone Star State. His influence stretches beyond business and into the realm of politics and public policy.

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“I think that he wanted to be remembered as a philanthropist, primarily,” said Loren Steffy, a writer who has covered business and the energy sector for Texas Monthly and the Houston Chronicle. “I think he believed a lot in the American ideal of entrepreneurship and success and being rewarded for that.”

Pickens gave away hundreds of millions of dollars. More than $600 million went to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University. But millions went to charitable causes in Texas and Oklahoma as well. The donations helped build a legacy.

“He didn’t really make his huge fortune until he was in his mid-70’s,” Steffy said. “If you’re at that age, your family’s grown and what do you do with all this money? His answer was, ‘I’ll give it all away.'”

Pickens’ donations also made him a player in politics. “He was obviously a very strong supporter of the Republican Party,” Steffy said. His donations helped fund the successful presidential campaigns of George W. Bush.

But Steffy sees a larger impact from Pickens, based on his approach to business. He was a pioneer when it came to launching hostile takeover bids for companies that he believed were underperforming.

“What Boone saw before anybody else did was that a lot of companies weren’t really managed all that well and the value was not coming back to the shareholders,” Steffy said. “He gave us the idea that shareholders are the owners of the company. “

These moves came at a time when more people were getting involved in investing, particularly for retirement.

“I think that Boone Pickens was at the forefront of this kind of democratization of capital in investments,” Steffy added. “It really transformed our view of the markets and investment in capital in a very significant way.”

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