Boone Pickens celebrates 87th birthday in OKC
Boone Pickens will celebrate his 87th birthday today with a full day of traveling, speaking to presidential candidates, and scouring over oil and natural gas production and demand figures.
In other words, it’s a typical day for the oilman, prognosticator and Oklahoma State University benefactor. Decades beyond retirement age, Pickens shows no signs of slowing.
Working long hours at the expense of his sleep schedule is as common for Pickens as his OSU orange.
When Pickens’ oldest daughter was born, he began losing sleep from helping with her at night and working all day. He complained to his doctor, but received a less-than-warm response.
“He said, ‘Let me tell you, young man, there’s no medical history of anybody dying from lack of sleep. When you have to go to sleep, you’ll go to sleep. Don’t worry about it,’” Pickens said. “So ever since, I don’t worry about it.”
Pickens attributes much of his health and energy to Eric Oberg, who has been his personal trainer for 26 years and carries a three-word job description: “Keep Boone alive.”
“He doesn't mind working hard, working long,” Oberg said. “I don't have to push too hard. I ask him to lift heavy, and he says, ‘OK, if that’s the plan, that’s the plan.’”
Pickens begins a typical day at 6:30 a.m. with a call to his office for an update on oil and natural gas prices and global energy markets. He then begins his workout routine, which often includes curls or situps with weights and squats with a 75-pound vest.
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Pickens has the same goal as his trainer.
“I’m trying to stay alive,” he said.
The routine doesn’t fade with busy days. After the early morning workout at his home Wednesday, Pickens spent the rest of the morning in the Dallas office of his BP Capital Fund Advisors before flying to Erie, Pa., for a speech. He returned home after midnight just to start the routine again early the next morning.
While trusting and relying on his personal trainer and doctors, Pickens also leans heavily on the team he has built at BP Capital.
“I always try to get people on my team who are better than I am,” he said. “When I hired my first geologist, I said ‘I want you to be a better geologist than I am.’ I’ve always hired the best. That’s how I get the best results.”
Pickens said he builds his company like a basketball team: seeking strong leadership from the seniors but relying heavily on the strength and vision of the freshmen and sophomores.
“At my age, something could happen to me,” he said. “If it did, these guys could run it as well as I can.”
Pickens’ employees don’t expect that anytime soon.
“He takes care of himself. He watches what he eats. I can see how young you can stay if you stay active,” said Brian Bradshaw, principal and portfolio manager at BP Capital. “He moves and thinks like a much younger person.”
Pickens’ energy and enthusiasm includes all aspects of his life, both inside and outside the office.
“He’s a tireless worker,” Bradshaw said. “He’s up early. He has an amazing amount of energy. He works late every day. He always makes the joke of why would he retire. He’s already doing what he loves, and he has a passion for it.”
BP Capital’s office is a gallery of Boone Pickens history. One wall is filled with magazine covers that have featured him, while another wall contains dozens of editorial cartoons. Another area includes a poster-size print of OSU’s Boone Pickens Stadium, along with a signed football helmet and a Big 12 Championship trophy. Another wall features a photo gallery of Pickens with political leaders, including presidents, and Queen Elizabeth II.
BP Capital still operates about 55 wells on Picken’s 68,000-acre ranch in the Texas Panhandle along the banks of the Canadian River.
“I could put a note in a bottle on my ranch, and it would float through Oklahoma City and I could pick it up near Holdenville,” Pickens said of his birthplace in southeastern Oklahoma.
While the company still has some operations, it makes most of its money on forecasting oil and natural gas prices. Over the past 18 years, the company has posted an annual loss only four times.
Hopeful for oil prices
Today, Pickens says he predicts oil prices will continue their recovery and likely will be between $70 and $75 a barrel by the end of the year. He thinks prices will recover further through 2016.
Domestic oil companies have mothballed more than half their rigs over the past six months in a move that promises to slow production throughout the country. Pickens said he expects domestic production to fall by about 1 million barrels a day in 2016.
“If that’s the case, it’s going to put great pressure on OPEC to make up the difference,” Pickens said. “We think OPEC would have to come up with 1 million barrels per day this year, and next year they’ll have to come up with 2 million barrels per day. We don’t think OPEC can produce that much oil.”
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has said it has about 2 million barrels per day of excess capacity, but Pickens said he thinks the cartel, which is led by Saudi Arabia, is producing near capacity today. Reuters reported this week that China asked for additional oil from both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and was turned down on both fronts.
“I think they’re producing pretty well all-out now,” Pickens said.