The billionaire oilman had the perfect plan to help his alma mater Oklahoma State University raise money—by taking out $10 million life insurance policies on him and 27 other people:
Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, Pickens, and the other men and women who thought their demise would benefit their favorite university, Gift of a Lifetime has turned into the Present from Hell. First it fell apart. Then came the lawsuits. And this past March came a decision from a federal judge who declared that not only was the university not entitled to a refund of $33 million in premium payments, it was also responsible for the court costs incurred by the people it had sued.
So how did a sure bet turn into a lost cause? Pickens and the school aren’t talking, as they’ve since appealed the judge’s decision. Neither are the insurance brokers and agency that sold the policies. Yet because it’s a matter of interest in federal court, the arc of Gift of a Lifetime’s downfall can be traced in the thousands of pages of internal e-mails and deposition testimony that are now a part of the public record. Those documents reveal a plan sunk by impatience, hubris, and a belief that the hour of death could be predicted. One that all began when Pickens took his shirt off.