This 86 Year Old Man Gave Away $1 Billion

T. Boone Pickens on Philanthropy, making money, and the harms of inherited wealth.

Jun 21, 2014 at 1:00PM

Legendary Energy investor T. Boone Pickens has given away more money than he's currently worth, having signed the Giving Pledge. He's said he thinks that inherited wealth generally does more harm than good, and he enjoys seeing the results of his giving. 

In the video below, Pickens tells Motley Fool contributor Jason Hall more about his philanthropy, and how at 86, he fully intends to keep working, making more money, and giving that away, too. For more, watch the video, or read the transcript below. 

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T. Boone Pickens isn't the only super-investor with his eyes on the American Energy Boom. Warren Buffett is so confident in this company's can't-live-without-it business model, he just loaded up on 8.8 million shares. An exclusive Motley Fool report details this company that already has over 50% market share. Just click HERE to discover more about this industry-leading stock.

Jason Hall: I'd like to close with a little bit of talk about philanthropy. You've signed the Giving Pledge, and you've already donate a significant amount of money. Could you talk a little bit about your philanthropy and your view on your long-term legacy when it comes to the wealth that you have accumulated, what you'd like to see happen?

T. Boone Pickens: I wanted to give so I could see the results, and you can't give testamentary gifts and see the results!

I wanted to see what would happen in the giving. Well, I made a lot of money. After I left Mesa in '96, I ran my net worth up until one point it was $5 billion. I was very generous during that period, giving this money away.

I was single at the time, so when it's one person making the decision ...

Hall: It's a little simpler.

Pickens: Yes. If you want to make a decision, it's just you. I can still remember the gift to Oklahoma State, to start the construction of the new football stadium. It was $165 million, and it was December of '04 when I gave that.

I was peaking out on net worth at that time. I got up, and then got hit by the '08 deal. But at that point, during that period I gave away a billion dollars -- like this. Not, "When I die, you're going to get it."

Well, when I die, they're going to get it too. They're going to get it again -- and that's the Giving Pledge that Gates and Buffett put together. Half your estate goes to charity.

Hall: You've already given away a massive amount of your total net worth.

Pickens: What happened to me, I ran it up to five and got hit in '08-'09, and I lost two, gave away one, and I've got one left. So actually, I've given away, now, more than my net worth.

Hall: More than you have.

Pickens: But I'm coming back!

Hall: You are.

Pickens: I've got stuff going on that I'll get it back. I probably will never get to the five, but I think I can get it back to two, maybe three.

Hall: Boone, I'm not going to count you out!

Pickens: Oh, don't do that! No, there have been people counting me out before, and that's a mistake.

Hall: Not a good bet.

Pickens: Because I love to make money, I enjoy giving it away, and I love to work. I can't even imagine not going to the office, and just sitting around. That would be a sad day for Boone.

Hall: Here recently, you've turned 86.

Pickens: Eighty-six.

Hall: You're saying here, on camera, you're not planning to retire.

Pickens: No! In a box, is the way I'll retire. No, I really mean that. There's got to be some place that I'm not as productive as I am now. I understand I'm in a game I'm going to lose.

Hall: We all lose this game.

Pickens: Nobody escapes. You're going to die -- but I'm going to enjoy life as long as I can. And life, for me, is to work, make money, and give it away.

Hall: You're an inspiration to a lot of people, and your visionary leadership in energy is definitely going to leave a legacy that outlasts all of us.

Pickens: Well, I hope so. I hope they remember me, 10, 20, 30 -- maybe 100 years from now -- and say, "Yeah, that old guy, he did some unusual things." I hope that's the way you're remembered.

Hall: I think that's going to be the case. Boone, thank you so much. I appreciate you sitting down with us.

Pickens: Sure. Good.

Hall: Thanks for watching, everybody. Fool on!

Warren Buffett bought nearly 9 million shares of this company
T. Boone Pickens isn't the only super-investor with his eyes on the American Energy Boom. Warren Buffett is so confident in this company's can't-live-without-it business model, he just loaded up on 8.8 million shares. An exclusive Motley Fool report details this company that already has over 50% market share. Just click HERE to discover more about this industry-leading stock.

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