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T. Boone Pickens, Oil Tycoon, Corporate Raider, Dies at 91

Oil tycoon and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens died Wednesday according to a statement on the boonepickens.com web site. He was 91 years old.

Born in Oklahoma, Pickens went to work for Phillips Petroleum after graduating from college. Two years later he invested $2,500 to create his own drilling company, which he took public in 1964 and renamed Mesa Petroleum.

Pickens turned his efforts to acquiring other companies in the 1980s, when the stocks of the major petroleum producers were so cheap that it became easier to get new oil reserves by taking over a company than by drilling.

“It has become cheaper to look for oil on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange than in the ground,” he said at the time.

Pickens later launched a hostile, unsuccessful bid for Phillips. The bid angered residents in Phillips’ hometown of Bartlesville, Oklahoma and they held 24-hour prayer vigils to support the company.

Pickens had already made failing bids in 1982 for Cities Services and in 1983 for Gulf Oil. While unsuccessful, the bid forced Gulf to accept a merger with Chevron (CVX) .

Critics called him a pirate who tried to “greenmail” his way into companies, but Pickens maintained he was looking out for shareholders.

Mesa Petroleum suffered with the collapse of natural gas prices in the early 1990s and Pickens was pushed out of his own company in 1996. He launched BP Capital Energy Fund the same year.

He later pushed for energy self-sufficiency through the exploitation of natural gas, wind power and solar energy with the aim of reducing the United States’s dependence on oil imports from the Middle East.

Pickens eventually abandoned plans for a huge Texas wind farm after running into difficulty getting transmission lines approved, and eventually his renewables business failed.