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Father knows best?


Gazette staff July 18th, 2012

On the scale of questionable business plans, the one by T. Boone Pickens — oil and gas man, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth financier and Oklahoma State University sugar daddy — isn’t too off the deep end.

Credit: Brad Gregg

At least that’s if you’re comparing it to IBM’s decision to help Germany’s Nazi government in the 1930s, White Star Line daring fate to sink the “unsinkable” Titanic and some jackasses’ decision to introduce New Coke.

In other words: Context is everything.

Pickens in 2005 donated $165 million to OSU to build a new football stadium and athletic facilities. School officials, deciding to ignore that old adage about not putting all your eggs in one basket, then decided to put all the gift money — plus more of its endowment — in Pickens’ hedge fund, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Pickens got Cowboy Athletics officials to participate in a program he said could generate up to $250 million for the endowment by taking out multimillion-dollar life insurance policies on elderly school alumni. The expectation was that the payouts from their deaths would exceed the premiums.

Although the endowment spent $33 million on those insurance premiums, it closed the plan before seeing any returns. Pickens and the athletic department sued the insurance company for allegedly misrepresenting the potential profit, but a judge ruled in favor of the insurance company, concluding that the plaintiffs had breached their contract by stopping payments.

And what about that hedge fund?

It paid off at first, the Journal reported, but the value plunged with everything else in 2008, leaving only around $125 million out of $202 million investment.

By 2010, the liabilities of the endowment exceeded assets by around $15 million, according to the article.

The Journal reported accountants were still reviewing the endowment’s 2011 numbers, but there are rumors that on the most recent numbers, scrawled in crayon under the balance sheet’s “total assets” line, are the words “magic beans.”


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