Don't cry for me, Amarillo

How once-fearsome corporate raider T. Boone Pickens was beaten at his own game -- by a one-time protege

Beatrice Pickens, 65, is seeking $28,035 in total monthly expenses from her famous husband. The couple's Neiman Marcus account, now part of the court record, helps explain some of that. She paid $1,266 for an Ungaro dress, and her balance at Neiman's one month totaled $14,729.

It would be easy to draw a picture of Pickens as a man besieged -- first betrayed by his former protege, now being sued by his wife.

But however his divorce plays out, Pickens refuses to accept any suggestion that he was beaten by Batchelder, or, as Forbes put it shortly after Pickens' resignation from Mesa was disclosed, "Batchelder ... bagged his old boss."

Batchelder succeeded in dragging his former mentor into an ego-driven and emotional fight -- with diminishing financial returns for both sides. (Batchelder concedes he may have made a mere $20,000 profit for his client Dennis Washington on the Mesa battle.) Viewed through the prism of his final bout with Batchelder, Pickens' principled past stances on shareholders' rights suddenly appear dim, at best. Burning bright is a sad picture: one of Texas' most renowned businessmen bungling critical business decisions and littering his life with embittered endings.

In the old days Pickens and Batchelder used to squeeze a game of racquetball in at least once a week. Typically, Pickens and Batchelder held the first and second slots in the racquetball rankings that Mesa kept as a matter of corporate policy. Usually, Batchelder concedes, Pickens beat him and held the top slot. But Batchelder's losses did not reflect a lack of effort.

"I tried to beat him," says Batchelder, who explicitly remembers that when he left the company he was -- for that week -- ahead of Pickens in the racquetball standings.

Strangely, Pickens recalled those matches, too, standing under the chandeliers of the Omni Hotel for Mesa's annual meeting two weeks after Forbes had proclaimed Batchelder's victory over his mentor.

The published connotation was still eating at Pickens. Though he still declined to be interviewed for this story, he took time to clear the record about the Forbes account.

"To say David Batchelder bagged me -- that was a joke," Pickens insisted. "He never beat me at racquetball or anything else. Time beat me."

Miriam Rozen is a staff writer for the Press' sister paper, the Dallas Observer.

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