Shareholder Association
He mocked the “excesses” of corporate America -- “The biggest hurdle in American corporations is the CEO’s ego,” he wrote -- and insisted his takeover bids were, at root, attempts to get shareholders the best return on their investment. He created the United Shareholders Association in 1986 to represent what he said were the interests of small investors.

Mesa’s bid for Gulf Oil Corp. in 1983 and 1984 spurred the largest corporate merger in history at the time, Standard Oil Co.’s $13.2 billion buyout of Gulf to form Chevron Corp.

As Robert Slater wrote in his 1999 book, “The Titans of Takeover,” the deal made Pickens “a hero to Wall Street” because shareholders earned an estimated $6.5 billion from the run-up of Gulf’s share price, while Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Salomon Brothers shared $63 million in fees. Pickens and his partners enjoyed a profit of $760 million.

By the mid-1990s, the tables had turned. Mesa, mired in debt, its share price falling, faced angry shareholders and an attempted hostile takeover. Pickens sold a controlling interest to Texas financier Richard Rainwater in 1996 and soon had to step aside as CEO and chairman. Down but not out, he proved himself an adept hedge-fund trader, betting correctly on price moves of natural gas and crude oil.

“I hope people think of me as a visionary who recognized it was important to show a new look periodically,” Pickens said, according to a 2018 New York Times story. “Predictability leads to failure.”

Kerry Attack
An active supporter of Republican politicians and causes, he gave $4.6 million to advocacy groups in the 2004 presidential election, including $2 million to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which attacked the military record of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.

Pickens supported Donald Trump during his successful presidential campaign in 2016 because the real estate magnate “was the only one who was going to change anything” among Republicans who ran for the nomination, Pickens said in an interview. “Now, you may not like the change you get, but you’re getting ready to have change. And I’m a change advocate.”

Pickens spent about $100 million since 2008 on his Pickens Plan, a grassroots campaign that called for building wind farms and an improved electric grid, offering incentives for energy efficiency and expanding use of natural gas-powered vehicles. That created a strange-bedfellows alliance between Pickens and Democrats.

Shifting Alliance
“Here is a man who was my mortal enemy,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said in 2008. “He’s my pal now.”

Pickens insisted there was nothing discordant in an oilman seeking less reliance on oil. When it comes to energy, he told Newsweek, “I’m pro-everything.”