Boone Pickens: I Learned Not to Give Away the 'Ranch'

T. Boone Pickens told CNBC Friday that he’s more conservative in his business dealings, thanks to mistakes, including one he openly acknowledges was a whopper.

“The biggest mistake is when we gave the big dividend to the shareholders, and we passed out $1.2 billion,” he said, referring to when he ran oil company Mesa and was acquiring other companies. He was betting that natural gas wouldn’t drop below $2.32, but, in fact, it fell to 90 cents.

“I had no idea at that point that I was actually distributing equity in the company, because I thought natural gas prices would go up.”

Pickens, now the chairman of the hedge fund BP Capital Management, is Texas oil magnate and well-known corporate raider and takeover operator.

The oilman said knowing that he's imperfect in his business dealings is a valuable understanding to have.

He added that now when he goes after deals, his methodology is different.

“I don't do them as big, as robust as I did, say 10, 20, 30 years ago,” he added. “I go after the whole enchilada, and now I take bites off of it. But I am still in the game.”