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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Raider on the Corporate High Seas By Ronnie Dugger BOONE By T. Boone Pickens, Jr. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1987, 304 pages, $18.95 TBOONE PICKENS OF Amarillo is a radical conservative, a bucca neer of profit on the corporate high seas. One may say he is a pirate, a predator, a raider; he is. One may say he is an effective critic of pompous corporate bureaucrats who disguise their pursuit Of personal self-interest as service to the sucker stockholders; he is that. He is most certainly also a hardcore Republican, state campaign chairman for Governor Clements, guest at President Reagan’s dinner in the White House to raise money for GOP congressional candidates. In his memoir Pickens wastes few words, and even fewer logical arguments, on those critics who see the corporate raiders as hijackers, ‘ blackjackers, economic kidnapers, clubbing, denianding ransom, and when they tions , leaving them laboring under fresh mountains of debt which they have incurred simply to go on owning their own enterprises. Unless one believes that Amarillo is the home of the tooth fairy, one certainly is not going to expect to find in Pickens’s memoir the balanced information one needs to evaluate the fairness of his raids and the effects that they have had on the productivity of his target companies and the availability of their capital for jobs and research and development. One does learn here, though, a good deal that is interesting about Pickens himself and about the American corporate system he so trenchantly berates. Being rich, for instance what’s it like? “Money has frequently been a motivating force in my life. It’s quite a thrill to make money,” Pickens tells us. “I am always alert as to how I can make money.” Once, on live cattle futures, “I parlayed $34,000 into $6.6 million in six months.” After Pickens and friends drove around unpromising cornfields and consequently took a profitable position in corn futures \(a poor crop meant prices would $500,000 just driving around looking at cornfields isn’t too bad.” Pickens’s wife Bea and he “own about five percent of Mesa Limited Partnership, which represents about 130 billion cubic feet of gas,” he says. “If you assume that gas_ Will sell for an average of $4 per million cubic feet, that will be $520 million over the next 30 years. . . . Today -September 30, 1986 I am worth $107 million much less than most people assume.” There is also, however, the pleasure of power. After Mesa Petroleum made a big acquisition, “It was great to have 1.7 trillion cubic feet of gas,” Pickens allows. Mesa acquired more than three million acres of Canadian land and sold it in 1979 fOr more than $500 million. That, too, must have felt great. The Pickenses own a 13,000-acre ranch, “which gives us a total of eight miles on the Canadian River . . . a beautiful wooded area where giantcottonwoods throw a deep shade. . . . Through the years [Bea] has planted 10,000 trees all over the ranch.” One source of Pickens’s career as a dealmaker and a raider is his lifelong love of gambling: gin rummy, poker “I once dropped $15,000 on the Super Bowl.” Most years, he says, his charitable and political contributions exceed his salary from Mesa. “I used to say,” Pickens tells us, “that if I had two suits a dark one and a light one -a couple of bird dogs, and a good shotgun, I would be happy. Now I seem to need 15 suits, two dozen bird dogs, a good shotgun, and a set of golf clubs. I drive an eight-year-old car \(a blue Mercedes, dollars to Oklahoma State, Bea said, ‘Why don’t we givejust $970,450, and you can go out and buy a new car?’ ” Pickens went through two collaborators, Moira Johnston and Joseph Noeera, before Jim Conover, a Washington Post writer, finishedhis book for him, earning Pickens’s straightforward acknowledgement for working with him on “writing and structuring.” Under the circumstances one could not make the mistake of thinking Boone wrote Boone. Indeed, the title page is artfully honest on the point, omitting any ascription of the writing by separating the title from the name “T. Boone Pickens, Jr.” with a black dash rather than with the preposition “By.” On the other hand, on these facts one can be sure that what is told and how things are put in Boone reflect the subject’s wishes. Observer readers of literary bent will enjoy some of Pickens’s ways of talking \(on which, one hopes, his collaborators based the bet, Pickens tells us, “I was so happy I was THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19