When it came to 1980s business reporting, T. Boone Pickens was straight out of central casting. He made his name, J.R. Ewing-style, with wildcat oil drills. He then became one of the era’s most fearsome corporate raiders, feared and loathed in equal measures across Wall Street. And he finished the decade as an unlikely environmentalist, pushing natural gas and being one of the first warners against “peak oil”.
Founding Mesa Petroleum in 1956, he became one of the most notorious uses of so-called “greenmailing”: purchasing enough shares in a company to be in a position to start a hostile takeover, then demanding that the existing board buy back your shares at an inflated price so you don’t go any further with the endeavour. This made him popular with shareholders (as their stakes became worth a lot more) but a marked man among the Wall Street establishment, and few shed a tear when Mesa collapsed in the early 90s under the Pickens’ attempts to ramp up natural gas production.