Great ResignationDiversity and InclusionCompensationCEO DailyCFO DailyModern Board

Remembering Oil Tycoon T. Boone Pickens Through His Most Colorful Quotes

September 11, 2019, 10:09 PM UTC

Over the years, Fortune has spilled barrels of ink over the legendary T. Boone Pickens. The tycoon was known as much for his unencumbered tongue as his ruthless business acumen. Once described by writer Joseph Nocera in Fortune as “the most feared and famous of the 1980s corporate raiders,” Pickens built a longstanding reputation as a disruptor—and was the first so-called “raider” to make the cover of Fortune.

While Pickens (or Boone, as he was called by many) became famous for his brash style, writer Nocera said in Fortune’s July 1996 issue that; “Thanks to him, corporate life, especially at the top, is radically different: filled with both pressures and rewards that didn’t used to exist. Like it or not—like him or not—the business landscape that exists today is one that he had no small role in painting.”

T Boone Pickens 2004 obit
Dallas oil investor Boone Pickens poses on the Bloomberg television set in New York October 20, 2004.
Jennifer S. Altman—Bloomberg via Getty Images

In remembrance of the titan’s passing at 91 years old, Fortune revisits some of Pickens’ most memorable quotes throughout our pages over the years.

On other CEOs

“While I was in my late 30s I was invited to join other C.E.O’s from much larger corporations at social and sporting events. I soon came to think, ‘These guys really aren’t that smart.'”—Pickens, “Boone Speaks,” Fortune, 1987

On business meetings

“Talking is the natural way to do business. Great things come from our luncheon meetings, which consist of a sandwich, a cup of soup, and a good idea or two. No martinis.”—Pickens, “Boone Speaks,” Fortune, 1987

On being a raider

“I never liked being called a raider. I never destroyed anything.”—Pickens, “Boone Speaks,” Fortune, 1987

On investing

“I can’t remember a year when I didn’t make more money on outside investments than on my salary.”—Pickens, “Boone Speaks,” Fortune, 1987

On quick returns

“At my age, you don’t have time to plant small trees.”—Pickens, “Return of the Raider,” Fortune, 2002

On career advice

“I am frequently asked by high school and college students how they can attain success from modest beginnings. My answer is simple. Like many business executives, owe my success to the free enterprise system. I started with a good education, $2,500 in capital, and an opportunity to do something—the sky was the limit, and fortunately the same opportunity still exists.”—Pickens, “My Case for Reagan,” Fortune, 1984

On strategy

“I decided that we could outthink, outwork, and outfox the big boys, and that would beat all the money in the world.”—Pickens, “Boone Speaks,” Fortune, 1987

On parenting

 “If you don’t watch out, you can set up a situation where a child never has the pleasure of bringing home a paycheck.”—Pickens (on leaving only small trusts for his children), “Should You Leave it All To the Children?” Fortune, 1986

On legacy

“I should have stopped after the Gulf deal. I would have been a folk hero.”—Pickens, “Return of the Raider,” Fortune, 2002

On hedging bets

“You can be dead right—and dead.”—Pickens, “Return of the Raider,” Fortune, 2002

More must-read stories from Fortune:

Change the World 2019: See which companies made the list
Solar execs say the game is already over for non-renewable energy
—Why the next recession may feel very different than 2008
—How Harvard’s most popular class became a “lifestyle”
Who is running for vice president in 2020? These are the contenders
Subscribe to Fortune’s The Loop newsletter for the latest on the revolutions in energy, technology, and sustainability.