Pickens: "We're At A Critical Point Right Now"
CNBC Sports Business Reporter
Earlier this week, I wrote thatOklahoma State could be the team/school that is most affected by the economy. This is because the school's biggest booster Boone Pickens is the biggest booster in the college sports world.
And the $165 million he donated to the program is in one of the funds of his BP Capital Management, which has lost $1 billion.
Pickens, who might be the nicest, most honest business big shot I've ever met, agreed to sit down and talk with me about the investment and what type of impact it will have. If you want to see the complete story with more, watch my report on our special "Wall Street Crisis: Is Your Money Safe?" at 8 pm ET tonight on CNBC.
Darren: Your team is 6-0 and you had a big win over Missouri this past weekend. Tomorrow is homecoming against Baylor. How do you feel being the world's greatest Oklahoma State fan right now?
Pickens: Mike Holder, our athletic director said it's the biggest win we’ve ever had and I said, "We’ve had those wins over OU (Oklahoma) that were pretty big and Nebraska." And he said, "But this one happened at the perfect time of the year for it to be the biggest win." It's a big deal for us. We’re very happy about it.
Darren: How do you keep focused on your Pickens Plan and think about football?
Pickens: I think about a lot of things. During the week, it's all Pickens Plan. Saturday and Sunday it's football -- I'm a big Dallas Cowboys fan too—and Sunday night is another long session of the Pickens Plan.
Darren: Do you pitch the Pickens Plan at Boone Pickens Stadium?
Pickens: Everybody at Oklahoma state is on my side of course. That’s the biggest contingent of students that have signed up with us. We have over a 1.25 million people that have signed up with us.
Darren: In Dec. 2005, you gave the largest single donation in college history—$165 million to the Oklahoma State athletic department. You put that back into one of your BP Capital and by July of this year, you told me that money was up 120 percent, or to about $363 million. Where are you at now given all the market declines?
Pickens: We made money in 2006 and 2007, so this is our first year of the fund that we lost money. In the equity funds, where the OSU money is, this year has been a disaster for us and it's going to slow down our building. Not on the (renovations to) the stadium. We're finishing off the stadium, but it's going to be slow going on the athletic village.
Darren: Are you still in the positive on that initial $165 million investment?
Pickens: We're up a little bit. Not much though.
Darren: If I'm a fan of Oklahoma State and want that money to grow, what am I rooting for to happen?
Pickens: Well, 10 percent of the fund is in raw commodities and we're either long or short oil or long or short natural gas. Then, 90 percent of the fund is in equities, the stock market. It's a long-biased portfolio, so fans should be pulling for oil and gas equities—you know the ones that have taken the biggest hit—and they're probably pulling for the price of oil and natural gas to go up. But not right now. We're actually out of the market right now. So I'm not in the market. So for now, I want those prices to come down.
Darren: You said on CNBC earlier this month that 15 percent of investors that are in your BP Capital have expressed they might want to take their money out by the end of the year. Is that an option for the Oklahoma State athletic department?
Pickens: We've leveraged the money I donated to build. But there's a certain point where they may have to exit the funds.
Darren: How much are they considering that?
Pickens: We're at a critical point right now.
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