T. Boone Pickens
Thomas Boone Pickens, Jr. (b. 1928) is a successful investor. In 2008 he published the book The First Billion Is the Hardest: How Believing It's Still Early in the Game Can Lead to Life's Greatest Comebacks.
Pickens has been very generous to higher education and has given over half a billion dollars. He was chairman of the Board of West Texas State University and donated funds to endow its business school. He led the renewal of Oklahoma State University's athletics program. The athletics program is funded by a separate corporation called "Cowboy Athletics" which decided to upgrade OSU facilities and to construct a new athletic village on the edge of the OSU campus. Two hundred homes were taken by eminent domain and torn down to make way for the campus expansion. In 2005, Pickens donated $165 million to renovate the football stadium. Instead of spending this donation on the stadium's construction costs, OSU Athletic Director Mike Holder decided to invest the funds with BP Capital expecting to earn a 20% return. Cowboy Athletics took out loans and sold bonds to finance the stadium and athletic village using its investment as collateral. Although the Cowboy Athletics' investment in BP Capital grew to $400 million, it dropped in the recession to $125 million by the time that it was sold.
A second fundraising plan was called "Gift of a Lifetime", which involved purchasing life insurance policies on older OSU alumni. Cowboy Athletics expected to make between $100 million to $250 million, depending on when the 27 specific alumni died. Essentially, Cowboy Athletics was betting that it was better at estimating life expectancies than the insurance company. It spent $16.6 million in first year premiums on those life insurance policies in 2007. By the time that the 2009 insurance premiums were due, OSU concluded that the plan would not make money, and decided to not pay any more premiums. It lost the $33 million in premiums paid to date and was sued by the insurance companies.
As a result, by the end of 2010, Cowboy Athletics' liabilities were more than $15 million greater than its assets. Except for an indoor football practice field that has been funded by a separate gift from Sherman Smith, the rest of the athletic village has not been built. Pickens is paying off Cowboy Athletics' $84 million loan obligations with gifts of $3 million every calendar quarter.
- Ann Zimmerman and Leslie Scism. "Boone Calls the Plays as Largess Complicates Life at Alma Mater", Wall Street Journal, July 7, 2012, p. A1.