Lower Oil Prices Catch Billionaire Off Guard

Oil magnate T. Boone Pickens is taking a beating financially. The slump in the price of oil has cost his hedge funds around $1 billion this year. His investors lost most of that money. Pickens' personal losses are estimated at $270 million. This isn't the kind of result you'd expect from a guy who's written a book called The First Billion is the Hardest.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:

Oil prices have fallen about 30 percent from their highs this summer. Good for us, not good for billionaire oil investor T. Boone Pickens. Two of his energy funds have lost about a billion dollars this year. NPR's Jeff Brady has more.

JEFF BRADY: The funds are run by Pickens' company, and the billionaire oilman says simply he missed a turn in the market. Oil prices fell $40 a barrel the last few months when he thought they were going to continue climbing. His investors lost most of that billion dollars. Pickens' personal losses are estimated at 270 million. Despite that, he still plans to spend money on those folksy television ads touting his energy plan.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION AD)

BOONE PICKENS: Did you know America uses 25 percent of the world's oil, but only has three percent of the world's oil reserve?

BRADY: Absent a plan in the public policy world that appeals to him, Pickens is offering his own. He wants the country to build lots and lots of windmills and use natural gas for cars until more renewable energy sources can be discovered.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION AD)

PICKENS: I'm T. Boone Pickens. Join with me, and we'll take back our energy future.

BRADY: Pickens hopes an inspired grassroots will prompt the future occupant of the White House and lawmakers to pay attention to his plan. That's assuming a billion dollar loss doesn't eat away at his credibility. Pickens says his energy funds have made investors plenty of money in the past, so he's not going to panic now. But those losses offer new meaning to his best-selling book titled "The First Billion is the Hardest." Jeff Brady, NPR News.

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