Pickens' son celebrates $4 million day

Astrotech
Source: Astrotech Corporation

It was a multimillion-dollar day for Boone Pickens. Well, for his son.

Thomas Boone Pickens III, the billionaire oilman's youngest of four children, is the CEO of a company called Astrotech, a publicly traded holding company for several tech businesses. He's also the biggest investor, with a 20 percent stake.

Astrotech's shares jumped 61 percent Wednesday, to $2.36, after one of its subsidiaries, 1st Detect, disclosed a contract with the Department of Homeland Security. It was the best performer in the Nasdaq composite index, according to FactSet.

Astrotech shares

Pickens, who's been CEO of the Austin, Texas-based company since 2007, owns 4.1 million shares. The value of his stake jumped by $3.7 million, to $9.7 million.

1st Detect, which bills itself as a supplier of technology that detects chemicals and critical threats, said it's working with Smiths Detection to "enhance passenger and carry-on baggage screening as well as other homeland security operations."

The development contract is expected to last 24 months and will be followed by design and procurement phases, 1st Detect said.

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed and an Astrotech spokesman declined to comment beyond the release.

The windfall is a pittance for the Pickens family. The elder Pickens made a fortune, now estimated at about $1 billion, from investments in oil, natural gas and nuclear power companies.

But any profit is a welcome sight these days, given the turmoil in the energy industry. The price of crude has plunged by almost two-thirds in the past two years as the surge in natural gas production, coupled with slowing demand in many economies across the globe, has led to record oil stockpiles.

T. Boone Pickens predicted at the beginning of February that U.S. crude had just bottomed at $26 per barrel and would likely double within 12 months. On Wednesday, U.S. oil futures settled at $38.29 a barrel.

Far from the oil industry, Pickens' son has dealt with an equal amount of volatility. Before Wednesday's rally, Astrotech's stock was down more than 40 percent over a two-year stretch. Big moves up and down are common for small-cap companies, which can live and die on a few customers or projects.

Astrotech's market capitalization is about $50 million. Revenue in fiscal 2015 was just $513,000, down from $24 million in 2013.

According to the news release, the company has been gearing up for the DHS deal.

"We have been working for years to position our technology to reach the high level of performance needed to be selected by both the DHS and Smiths Detection," Pickens said in the release. "Being selected for this important program validates both our technology and our long-term corporate strategy."