Sitting in his favorite chair by the fireplace, Boone Pickens said that of all the changes he’s making in his life, selling off his prized Texas ranch is among the hardest.
“Damn right, I’ll miss this place,” said the legendary oil-tycoon, sitting in the library of his ranch in the Texas Panhandle. “I put a lot of time and effort into it. And there is nothing else like it.”
But as he approaches his 90th birthday in May, and after a series of health problems, the famously hard-charging, charismatic financier is scaling back. He shut down his hedge fund. He has sold off his Dallas mansion. And now he has put his weekend ranch, just outside of Amarillo, on the market.
Price tag: $250 million.
The ranch, called Mesa Vista Ranch, is the fullest expression of the man who started out in the Oklahoma oil patch and rose to become a towering figure on Wall Street and global energy trading markets. At 65,000 acres, or over 100 square miles, Mesa Vista is part rustic Wild West and part gold-plated luxury.
Boone’s right-hand man, Jay Rosser, gave a tour of the ranch to CNBC’s “Secret Lives of the Super Rich.”
Boone built the ranch from a 3,000-acre parcel of land he first acquired in the 1970s. It expanded over time to cater to Pickens’ two favorite pastimes: hunting and golf. With his health preventing him from shooting or golfing, he said it’s time to find the right buyer and make sure the property is preserved.
While he admits the price is steep — making it one of the most expensive properties in the U.S. — he says he has put at least $200 million into the property, between the land and buildings and services.
“People who haven’t been here might say ‘well I’m not going to pay $250 million,'” Pickens says. “I say to them, ‘Just come look at it.’ And then see what you think.”
The land is rolling plains, which look out over the soaring mesas across the Canadian River. The property is festooned with lakes, streams, waterfalls and creeks created to form what many say is one of the largest manmade water parks in the country.
There are thousands of cottonwood, peak oak and sycamore trees planted on the property, and it’s teeming with wildlife — from quail and dove to turkey, antelope and mule deer and white-tail deer.
The main lodge stretches over 30,000 square feet, with carved-wood paneling, shimmering chandeliers and walls covered in American art. The dining room — expanded three times to suit Picken’s entertainment needs — seats 40. And the 30-seat home theater has its own separate popcorn-making room.
There is a separate guest quarters, with luxury suites that have hosted the likes of Dick Cheney and Nancy Reagan. And it’s got a British-style pub, with a gym upstairs.
The property’s Lake House, designed after a European villa, spans over 11,000 square feet and is surrounded by water — streams flowing underneath and views of a vast man-made lake and aqueduct that Boone spent years building.
The property has its own airport (FAA airport code TX13), with a 6,000-foot runway and small terminal with housing for pilots. It’s got a chapel. It’s got fire trucks and fleets of vehicles to travel the property.
Hunting has been turned into an art form at Mesa Vista: Aside from the marshes and nesting areas created to form some of the best quail hunting in the world, the ranch also has a two-story stone kennel, where Pickens keeps his 40 bird dogs.
Of course, since Mesa Vista is owned by the man known as the Oracle of Oil, the property also has several productive wells.
There is one part of the property that Pickens is so attached to, however, he isn’t giving up: his childhood home.
Pickens grew up in a small house in Holdenville, Oklahoma. His fourth wife, Madeleine, had the home taken apart and trucked to Mesa Vista Ranch, where it now sits in front of the street sign and sidewalk stone where Pickens carved his name in 1939.
The white-frame home has been decorated almost exactly as it was during Picken’s youth. After a sale of the ranch, however, the home will be moved back to the campus of his alma mater, the University of Oklahoma.
I asked Pickens what it felt like to look at his small childhood home and think about how far he’s come.
“It’s a little bit unbelievable,” he said. “And it’s been great. I’ve loved every minute of it.”