A couple of weeks ago, I read The First Billion is the Hardest:Reflections on a Life of Comebacks and America's Energy Future by T. Boone Pickens. Well, I didn't actually read it…I listened to the audio book.
Thomas Boone Pickens Jr. (better known as Boone) is the legendary founder of what would eventually become Mesa Petroleum, one of the largest independent oil companies in the world.
During his time at Mesa, he attempted and completed takeover bids of other oil companies in order to strengthen Mesa's position in the market. During some restructuring at Mesa, the management effectively gave Boone the boot and he decided that he was done with the oil industry.
What he did next surprised me. He took his knowledge of the dynamics of the oil industry as well has his knowledge of corporate mergers and acquisitions and started a hedge fund, BP Capital Management. He did well has a hedge fund manager and it was one of his greatest comebacks.
An interesting investment that Pickens made was in water. He bought the subsurface water rights to 200,000 acres of land in Roberts County, Texas. That initial purchase of $75 million is now said to be worth $1 billion. He sees water as another commodity that will be in short supply in years to come.
I really liked this book. It was just interesting to learn how he made, then lost, then made a fortune. Beyond that however, are his insights into the energy markets and where we need to be going from here.
He gives a lot of money to his alma mater, Oklahoma State at Stillwater, in addition to many other charities. I respect his promotion of responsible outdoor stewardship and he has an amazing Quail hunting ranch called Mesa Vista.
That may seem like a contradiction of terms, but he helps to preserve and regulate the quail population on his ranch as well as improve and protect the natural habitat.
The only negative thing that I would have to say about this book is that he sings the praises of natural gas waaaay too much, especially towards the end. I think he got a little senile towards the end of the book because it seemed like every other sentence talked about natural gas.
Is it a great alternative fuel? Yes.
Does he have a large stake in it because he believes in it? Of course!
So I guess he is going to mention it a lot, but at one point, I was thinking: “Dude, we get the point!”
He does promote other alternative energy sources like wind and water based technologies but his focus is primarily natural gas.
In conclusion, this is a great book and I would highly recommend it. It is up there with How to be Rich by J. Paul Getty.
Click here to check it out.