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Obituaries

US billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens dies at age 91

Hostile takeover pioneer criticized Japan's closed corporate culture of 1980s

T. Boone Pickens at an event in New York in 2018.   © AP

NEW YORK -- U.S. billionaire investor and oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens died at his home in the U.S. state of Texas, people familiar with the family said on Wednesday. He was 91.

Pickens made a fortune by founding an oil drilling and sales company that later became Mesa Petroleum. In the 1960s, he became a pioneer of hostile takeovers and later was known as an activist shareholder.

Pickens started trading natural gas at Mesa Petroleum. He invested in wind power and other renewables in his twilight years.

In the 1980s, he bought a stake in Koito Manufacturing, a leading maker of automotive lighting affiliated with Toyota Motor. From 1989 to 1991, he tried to intervene in the company's management by proposing a hand-picked director. He was Koito's top shareholder.

Pickens advocated for shareholders' rights and criticized Japan's business practices, including the keiretsu web of companies held together by cross-held shares that replaced Japan's prewar conglomerates.

But back then the idea of shareholder returns was new to Japan, and Pickens became known as a "corporate raider." He was denounced as a "greenmailer" whose only interest was to make a quick profit off his stock purchases.

Pickens' radical political remarks also drew attention. He insisted that the U.S. should not accept immigrants until the public deepens its understanding of different races and religions. He supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. "I'm tired of having politicians as president of the U.S.," he said. "Let's try something different."

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