It is a modus operandi that has served T. Boone Pickens Jr. well: Pick a company in the oil industry whose asset value is far in excess of its stock price; buy a big chunk of its stock; threaten a takeover; use the media to attack management -- and then sell out at a tidy profit.

Over the past few years, Pickens has used that formula to menace several major oil companies -- Gulf Corp., Phillips Petroleum Co. and Unocal Corp. among them -- with success that can be measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Pickens' raids have made him a national figure, the scourge of the oil patch and a darling of Wall Street.

But now Pickens has broken with his previous pattern. In a rapid-fire series of deals in recent weeks, he has shifted focus from the oil industry to aerospace, electronics and mining companies. He has stopped talking to the press. And while his actions have left some Pickens watchers scratching their heads, others suggest that while the target industries and some of the strategies may have changed, Pickens still is playing his game of corporate brinkmanship -- and likely will enjoy the same results.

"I think it's a way that he can turn a buck in the marketplace," said Craig Schwerdt, an analyst at Morgan Olmstead Kennedy and Gardner, a Los Angeles brokerage.

Some experts say that while Pickens' recent runs at Boeing Co. and Singer Co. are unlikely to go beyond the profitable minority investment stage, Wall Street is taking his interest in Newmont Mining Corp., a metals, coal and oil firm, more seriously. Pickens has purchased about 10 percent of Newmont and says he wants more, although he has stopped short of a full-scale takeover attempt. Many analysts believe he has a realistic chance of getting control of Newmont -- unless he's just looking for a quick profit from the stock run-up his interest in the company ignited.

"Pickens is really interested in acquiring Newmont Mining, whereas I don't think he was really interested in acquiring some of the other companies, like Singer and Boeing," said William Siedenberg, an analyst with Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co. Inc. "I think he'd like to acquire it and dismember it."

Experts say Pickens has to keep making deals to bring in income to keep his company, Mesa Limited Partnership, afloat. Mesa -- which evolved from Pickens' Mesa Petroleum Co. -- does not bring in enough money from its oil and gas operations to make its dividend payments, analysts say, so it must rely on dealmaking to make up the difference. Pickens and his associates did not respond to repeated requests to be interviewed for this story.

It was perhaps inevitable that Pickens, a Texas oilman who built Mesa from scratch into one of the nation's most successful independent oil companies, eventually would look beyond the oil industry for takeover targets. For one thing, he was running out of big oil companies to threaten. And for another, increases in oil prices and the stock market over the past year have brought oil company stock prices more in line with the concerns' asset values, dulling Pickens' best weapon -- his ability to argue that shareholders were being gypped by low stock prices.

"Relative to the values that were available in the oil industry over the past few years, there are no longer any cheap stocks available," Schwerdt said.

"There's not as much money to be made in the oil industry anymore," said Michael Jensen, a professor at Harvard Business School and the University of Rochester who has been a confidant of Pickens.

Pickens first ventured outside the oil industry in a limited fashion last year, when he bought a small stake in Burlington Northern Inc., which has both petroleum and transportation interests. But he later sold those shares without making a challenge to the company's management, and Pickens kept a low business profile for most of the first half of this year, spending part of the time promoting his autobiography, "Boone," which sold disappointingly.

Pickens resurfaced in late July, when it was revealed that he led a group of investors that held a tiny stake in Boeing and was seeking permission from federal regulators to purchase up to 15 percent of the aircraft maker. It was Pickens' first major move outside the oil business, and it caused a sensation that even Pickens is said to have described as a "violent overreaction": Boeing stock soared, the company's management implemented antitakeover measures, and the state of Washington passed a new law making it all but impossible to take over Seattle-based Boeing.

The fury proved one thing -- even outside the oil industry, Pickens' interest in a company can move markets. Boeing stock went up $7.25 just in the day after Pickens' ownership was disclosed. "The threat of that action taking place causes a reaction on the upside, and he can take advantage of that," Schwerdt said. While it is not known what Pickens has done with his Boeing stock, some analysts believe he has sold it at a nice profit.

Jensen said that while Boeing was something of a departure for Pickens, the company's low stock value relative to its asset base fit Pickens' previous pattern. "It's in a very different industry, but there's a commonality," he said. "So it doesn't appear to be so crazy."

Pickens' next target was Singer, the former sewing machine company now involved in a variety of defense electronics fields. Three weeks ago, Pickens filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission saying that he and a group of investors had bought 4.4 percent of Singer and were considering increasing their holding to 15 percent. Singer reacted more quietly than Boeing, but just as effectively -- it shifted its corporate headquarters from Connecticut to New Jersey to take advantage of that state's stricter antitakeover laws.

Next up was Newmont Mining. Pickens announced Aug. 13 that he and a group of partners had purchased 9.1 percent of Newmont's stock -- since increased to 9.95 percent -- and were interested in acquiring more, perhaps through a tender offer to take over the company. Analysts took this action more seriously than Boeing and Singer in part because of the dollars involved -- the $379 million Pickens' group invested in Newmont dwarfs his investment in the previous two companies.

"I have to believe that this one {Newmont} is much more serious," said Rosario Ilacqua, an analyst at Nikko Securities Inc., in New York. "This cannot be characterized in a league with Singer and Boeing ... It's a serious commitment."

Pickens' announcement of the Newmont stake contained his usual statements about seeking to improve shareholder value by forcing changes in Newmont that will improve its stock price. "The partnership has acquired Newmont shares because it believes that recent and current trading prices do not adequately reflect the value of the underlying businesses and assets and that there is the potential for substantial appreciation in the market value of the shares," the announcement said.

Yet analysts say that, unlike Boeing, Singer and most of Pickens' other targets, Newmont's stock is not that undervalued. In the past, Pickens has gone after companies whose stock was trading at a fraction of the book value of the company's assets. But Siedenberg, considered one of Wall Street's best mining-stock analysts, says Newmont's asset value is around $100 a share, while its stock is trading for slightly less than $80, and has not risen much since Pickens' announcement. "Pickens is reputed to have indicated that this is another example of an undervalued situation," Siedenberg said. "It really isn't."

Indeed, the price of Newmont stock has more than tripled in the past year and, as a result, some analysts believe Pickens will have a hard time convincing shareholders that they would be better off with him than with current management. "With what looks like an attractive situation, I don't think you can go out and get a lot of stockholder support," Ilacqua said.

Analysts say it is unclear what Pickens' next move will be. Many believe Pickens and Newmont's management are engaged in a high-stakes game of "chicken," with each waiting for the other to act. "I wish I could predict the next move," said Ronald Shorr, an analyst at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc. "I guess right now he's hoping that management will be scared into doing something without him even having to whisper a next move. At some point, he may have to roll out a tender {offer} in order to scare management into doing something."

Pickens could have some trouble bullying Newmont, experts say, because unlike in most of his other takeover attempts, his group is not the largest shareholder in the company. Consolidated Gold Fields, a British firm, owns 26.6 percent of Newmont and has said it will support management in any battle against Pickens. That would make it easier for Newmont's management to garner enough shareholder votes to defeat any bid by Pickens or to find an alternate suitor. "In a lot of these things you have to bring in a white knight who will buy 50 percent of your stock; in this case, you only need a white knight who will buy 25 percent," Shorr said.

Still, analysts don't discount Pickens' interest in Newmont. Some suggest he may be interested in buying the company and selling everything but its lucrative gold-mining subsidiary. Others point out that while Boeing and Singer were in businesses much different from the oil business Pickens knows, Newmont's mining operations have some similarities to drilling for petroleum, particularly in geology and resource management. "There is, at least from an operating standpoint, a substantial amount in common between mining operations and oil operations," Schwerdt said.

Should Pickens take over Newmont Mining, that might be the biggest change in his previous pattern. Pickens, many critics have charged, is more interested in dealmaking than in management. "It will be interesting to see if {Pickens and his partners} get one, to see how good they are at managing," Jensen said