Forbes 400, 2017
Because Texans are obviously the most important subset of the billionaires who make up the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans, I have conveniently culled them here for easy perusal.
Fun fact for your next cocktail party: the newest Texan to join the Forbes 400 ranks is Bert “Tito” Beveridge , founder of Tito’s vodka. The 55-year-old entrepreneur will sell close to 60 million bottles this year, enough to earn him an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion.
Overall, America’s rich just keep getting richer — thanks in large part to Internet Bubble 2.0. The Forbes 400 net worth cut off this year was a record-high $2 billion. In Texas, low oil prices have flatlined the growth in some fortunes, like that of San Antonio natural gas tycoon Rod Lewis and business legend Red McCombs. They may still be billionaires, but they’re no longer rich enough to make the Forbes 400. Another conspicuous absence from this Texas rich list is Charles Butt , the scion of the family behind the beloved HEB supermarket chain. Because of company stakes held by other family members, we’ve reassigned the Butts as a family fortune, estimated at $10.7 billion.
There’s certainly plenty of Texans who have deep enough moneybags to be in the Forbes 400 but don’t show up yet because our intrepid reporters (including Noah Kirsch, Michela Tindera, Max Jedeur-Palmgren, Igor Bosilkovski, Yinan Che, Deniz Cam and Andrea Murphy ) haven’t yet nailed down the numbers beyond a reasonable doubt. If you have a secret billionaire dossier you want to share, drop me a line at [email protected] .
1. Alice Walton
The Richest Woman In The World is the only daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton . Rather than working in the family company with brothers Rob and Jim , she went into investment banking before leaving to pursue her passions for art and horses, and decamped to her ranch in Millsap (pop. 409), an hour west of Fort Worth. Driven to bring world-class art to Arkansas, in 2011 she opened Crystal Bridges museum in Bentonville. It features works by the likes of Warhol, Rothko and Norman Rockwell . Brother John died in a 2005 plane crash. The extended Walton family still own more than half of Wal-Mart.
2. Michael Dell
The PC company that Dell started in his University of Texas at Austin dorm room at 19 is now a hardware and storage juggernaut, Dell Technologies. Last year Dell managed a coup when he merged his privately-held Denali with publicly-traded EMC Storage in an estimated $60 billion deal. Dell now owns 66% of Dell Technologies, but the majority of his fortune is in his private investment firm MSD Capital, which has stakes in hotels like the Four Seasons Maui and Applebee’s and IHOP chain operater DineEquity. In May Dell donated $1 billion to his nonprofit the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and following Hurricane Harvey in August, the Houston native pledged $36 million to fund area relief efforts.
3. Andrew Beal
Growing up, one of his first jobs was fixing broken TVs. Beal attended both Michigan State University and Baylor University, but dropped out of both. He was busy building his first fortune in real estate, buying up apartment buildings. The Texas banker also made a tidy sum during the Great Recession, buying distressed assets while the nation’s biggest banks were getting taxpayer bailouts. In recent years he’s been investing in oil . A mathematics enthusiast, in 1993 he developed the Beal Conjecture, a complex mathematical problem, and offered $1 million to anyone who could solve it. (No one has yet.)
4. Richard Kinder
After stepping down as president of Enron, Kinder cofounded pipeline giant Kinder Morgan in 1997. In 2014 he ended his career with a $70 billion megadeal that consolidated four affiliated companies into one goliath that now owns or operates 84,000 miles of pipe. The oil downturn hit the company hard; in 2015 it slashed its dividend 75%. Now removed from the day-to-day action, Kinder is focused on giving it away. The Kinder Foundation has donated tens of millions of dollars to build parks along Houston's network of bayous and new buildings for the Museum of Fine Art. An avid reader, Kinder is a big fan of Winston Churchill : " Probably the greatest person of the 20th century in terms of the direct contributions of one individual. "
Jones at Mile High stadium Denver. September 17, 2017. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
5. Jerry Jones
Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys for $150 million in 1989. It's now worth $4.2 billion — and has ranked as the most valuable NFL team for the past 11 years. In 1964 Jones was co-captain of the University of Arkansas team that won the national championship. He also invests in oil and real estate and collects art, such as his prized "Coin Toss" by Norman Rockwell , acquired for $1.1 million the same year he bought the Cowboys.
6. Randa Williams
7. Dannine Avara
8. Milane Frantz
9. Scott Duncan
Thanks to a temporary repeal of the death tax, when pipeline tycoon Dan Duncan died in 2010 at 77 he became the first American billionaire to pass his fortune to his four kids tax free. Randa Williams is non-executive chairman of Enterprise Products, which owns 50,000 miles of pipeline, market cap $56 billion.
10. Robert Rowling
In 1996 Robert Rowling recycled $500 million of proceeds from the sale of family oil and gas fields into the purchase of the Omni Hotels chain. Since then he has more than doubled the chain to 60 locations and 21,000 rooms. More are on the way, with new projects in Boston, Louisville, Atlanta (in JV with the Braves) and near Dallas (with the Cowboys). In 2004 Rowling bought Gold’s Gym, which Arnold Schwarzenegger made famous; now has more than 700 locations worldwide. A big Republican donor, Rowling would prefer to support a Pence/Rubio ticket in 2020. “Just tell the truth. It’s basic.” Gave $25 million to the University of Texas business school in 2013.
11. Robert Bass
With his three brothers, Robert Bass inherited a small fortune from their oil tycoon uncle Sid Richardson (d. 1959) and built it into a big one. They finally sold their oil interests in early 2017 to ExxonMobil for $6 billion. Robert ventured off on his own in 1986, creating a family office that became Oak Hill Capital Partners. Offshoots from his family investment office include billionaire David Bonderman ‘s Texas Pacific Group. In 1988 he sold the Plaza Hotel to Donald Trump for $390 million. Today, private jet start-up Aerion is the most high-profile investment by low-profile Robert. Working with Airbus, Aerion seeks to build the first supersonic business jets. Pricetag: $120 million. In 2012 he acquired a place in Manhattan’s 834 Fifth Avenue for a reported $42 million. In 2013, with his wife Anne , he donated $50 million to Duke University to support interdisciplinary studies aimed at tackling complex societal problems. Has also donated $50 million to Stanford. Their foundation is endowed with more than $90 million.
12. Ray Lee Hunt
Richest child of legendary oil wildcatter H.L. Hunt. Through his Hunt Consolidated conglomerate, Ray Hunt owns oilfields in Texas, natural gas projects in Peru and Yemen, and was one of the first oilmen into Iraq after the fall of Saddam. Son and heir apparent Hunter Hunt has helped move the family business into electric power, building a utility company and a high-voltage interconnection between the grids of Texas and Mexico. The Hunts tried and failed in 2016 to take over Texas power giant Oncor. Owns an estimated 190,000 acres of land across the west.
13. Trevor Rees-Jones
In 1984 bankruptcy attorney Trevor Rees-Jones decided that he wanted to be the guy making the deals, not the schlub cleaning up after them. He started with nothing in the oil business but became one of the biggest winners in the shale fracking revolution. He pioneered the Barnett shale in north Texas, then moved on to the Marcellus in Pennsylvania. In seven deals over seven years Rees-Jones grossed $7 billion. Chief remains the nation’s biggest privately owned natural gas producer. During the oil downturn Rees-Jones has been picking up royalty interests in the Permian Basin, which he thinks will keep paying out for decades. His Rees-Jones Foundation is endowed with $550 million and has given more than $300 million in grants, including $19 million to establish the Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence at the Children’s Medical Center. “There’s got to be a higher purpose to serve in this life,” he says.
14. Kelcy Warren
The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline is only the latest addition to the Energy Transfer empire founded by Warren and Ray Davis in 1995. In June 2017, after intense protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and an executive order from President Trump, Energy Partners was able to finish the 1,172-mile line, which carries 500,000 barrels per day. As a boy, Warren spent summers working with his dad as a welder’s assistant on Sun Pipeline in Texas. His fortune stems from stakes in three publicly traded companies; Energy Transfer Equity LP, Energy Transfer Partners LP and Sunoco LP. A music fan, Warren produces albums for singer-songwriters at his Austin, Texas studio, Music Road Records. With an estimated $10 million donation, Warren in 2012 won the naming rights to a new park in Dallas. He named Klyde Warren Park after his then-9-year-old son.
15. H. Ross Perot
The Perots in 2017 moved their family office into new digs on Turtle Creek in Dallas. Perot insisted that his new office be made identical to his old one out at the former HQ of Perot Systems. Known to be a sentimental packrat, Perot brought over his 6,000-object collection , including a walking stick purported to have belonged to Osama Bin Ladin . Long before his presidential campaigns (1992 and 1996), Perot was a salesman for IBM. He quit Big Blue when they wouldn’t give him more computers to sell after he hit his annual quota by March. In 1962 he founded Electronic Data Systems, and netted about $1.5 billion selling it to G.M. in 1984. In 1986 he was a key investor in Steve Jobs’ NEXT computer company. Later he launched Perot Systems, which Dell bought for $3.9 billion in 2009. Son of a cotton broker from Texarkana and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Perot has long championed POW/MIA efforts; in 1978 he recruited military vets to rescue two EDS employees imprisoned in Iran, a saga recounted in Ken Follett ‘s “On Wings of Eagles.” “The world wants things done, not excuses,” Perot told Forbes. “One thing done well is worth a million good excuses.”
16. Robert McNair
Owner of the NFL's Houston Texans stepped up in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and pledged $1 million for relief efforts. McNair secured the NFL franchise for Houston for $700 million in 1999 and created the league’s youngest expansion team. He sold his power generator company Cogen Technologies to Enron for $1.5 billion in 1999, and now invests in public and private equity. He and his wife, Janice , donate more than $20 million each year to their foundation dedicated to education. Called President Trump's comments on NFL players kneeling "divisive and counterproductive."
17. Dan Friedkin
Friedkin owns Gulf States Toyota, the $8 billion (est. sales) car distributor built by his father, Thomas (d. 2017) that enjoys exclusive rights to sell Toyotas in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Also has invested in a film production studio that's set to release its first movie, a story based on the kidnapping of oil heir J. Paul Getty III , later this year. He owns one of the largest collections of vintage military war planes and is a wildlife conservationist working to preserve 6 million acres in Tanzania.
18. Jeffery Hildebrand
A former ExxonMobil geologist, Hildebrand co-founded Hilcorp in 1990, later bought out his partner for $500 million. By specializing in squeezing more oil and gas out of mature fields, he has built Hilcorp into the nation’s biggest privately owned oil company with operations in Texas, Louisiana, Alaska and Ohio. In 2011 and 2012 he netted about $3 billion selling oilfields and pipelines in south Texas. Reinvested in Alaska's Cook Inlet and North Slope. In 2015 Hildebrand gave each of his 1,400 employees a $100,000 bonus after they doubled the size of his company in five years. This year he teamed with Carlyle Group to buy ConocoPhillips Colorado gas fields for $3 billion. Funded a $32 million equestrian center at Texas A&M. In Aspen, Colo. he owns a 1,000-acre ranch that used to belong to John Denver . With wife Mindy he opened Houston's River Oaks Donuts.
Tilman Fertitta. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg
19. Tilman Fertitta
Fertitta has turned "eatertainment" into an empire. His Landry's restaurant brands include Bubba Gump Shrimp, Saltgrass Steak House, and every parent's animatronic gorilla nightmare: Rainforest Cafe. Fertitta also owns the Golden Nugget Casinos, the Bentley/Rolls dealership in Houston's Galleria, and a couple of hotels down in Galveston, where he got his start working at dad's seafood restaurant after school. In early October the NBA approved his $2.2 billion purchase of the Houston Rockets; let the cross-marketing bonanza begin! Did you know? Fertitta, a dropout from the University of Houston, is now president of its board of regents.
20. Sid Bass
The end of an era came in early 2017 when the Bass brothers agreed to sell their oil company to Exxon Mobil for $6 billion. Sid negotiated the deal directly with CEO Rex Tillerson . Origin of the fortune was their uncle Sid Richardson , a legendary wildcatter. Over four decades they’ve expanded the wealth via smart investments made by former employees including Richard Rainwater (d. 2015) and David Bonderman , though a September 2001 margin call wiped out billions in Disney stock. Sid has been laying low since his 2011 divorce from super-socialite wife Mercedes. In 2015 Sid reportedly bought actor Patrick Dempsey ‘s estate in Malibu for $15 million. He rescued Texas ice cream maker Blue Bell with a $125 million loan after a 2015 listeria outbreak halted production for months.
21. Robert Smith
The son of African-American Ph.D’s, Smith as a boy in the early days of desegregation was bussed across town to go to school. While at Cornell, Smith secured an internship at Bell Labs after calling every week for five months. He went on to work at Kraft Foods and Goldman Sachs, then launched investment group Vista Equity Partners in 2000. With consistent double-digit annual returns, Vista has grown to $30 billion under management. Smith gave $50 million to Cornell and $20 million to the National Museum of African American History. Quote: "We are only bound by the limits of our own conviction. We can transcend the script of a pre-defined story, and pave the way for the future that we design. We just need to tap that power, that conviction, that determination within us."
Mark Cuban stands during the National Anthem prior to a Mavs-Hawks game, October 12, 2017 in … [+] Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
22. Mark Cuban
Long before Mark Cuban got famous for being that loudmouth guy on " Shark Tank " and on the sidelines of Mavericks games — he made one of the best scores of Internet 1.0. In 1995 Cuban and Indiana U. pal Todd Wagner founded Broadcast.com on the novel idea that people might like to watch video over the interwebs. They sold the company to Yahoo! in 1999 for $5.7 billion. Cuban has since spent the last decade and a half doing just about anything he wants. He owns the Dallas Mavericks and has stakes in Landmark Theaters, Magnolia Pictures and AXS TV. He starred as the U.S. president in the 2015 movie ” Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! ”
23. John Arnold
Arnold was a wunderkind natural gas trader who earned Enron $750 million the year before its collapse. From its ashes he launched his own fund Centaurus Advisors, where he churned out triple digit returns for several years. He shocked the hedge fund world upon announcing in 2012 at age 38 that he was retiring and cashing out. His net worth could be considerably higher than our conservative Forbes estimate. Arnold now focuses his brainpower on strategic philanthropy, pushing much-needed, large-scale policy reform in criminal justice , public pensions and junk science. He and wife Laura have given $500 million to the Arnold Foundation.
24. John Paul DeJoria
In the 1970s DeJoria sold shampoo door-to-door and slept in his car. In 1980 he hooked up with Paul Mitchell . With $700 between them they launched hair care empire John Paul Mitchell Systems (still going strong with $1 billion in sales). In 1989 DeJoria and business partner Martin Crowley acquired a stake in boutique tequila maker Patrón and have grown it to sales of more than $800 million. DeJoria supports anti-poaching group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which in January named a new ship after DeJoria and Christened it with a bottle of Patron. Daughter Alexis competes in the National Hot Rod Association.
25. Gerald Ford
A classic vulture investor, Ford has long specialized in buying distressed banks and turning them around. Bought his first bank in 1975. In 2002 he had his first big score when he and billionaire friend Ron Perelman sold California's Golden State Bancorp to Citigroup for $6 billion in stock. Ford has a 15% stake in publicly traded Hilltop Holdings, which owns PlainsCapital Bank and insurer National Lloyds Corp. He's the majority shareholder of Mechanics Bank in California. Enjoys ranches in Kentucky and New Mexico, homes in Dallas and the Hamptons. Has donated $35 million to alma mater Southern Methodist University.
26. Ray Davis
See Kelcy Warren above, with whom Davis first teamed in 1993 to build Cornerstone Natural Gas, which they sold to El Paso Natural Gas in 1996 before launching Energy Transfer. In 2010, Davis and XTO Energy founder Bob Simpson led a group of investors who backed Nolan Ryan to buy the Texas Rangers baseball team for $593 million. The team is now worth $1.55 billion by Forbes last count.
27. David Bonderman
"Bondo" got his start working in the family office of Fort Worth billionaire Robert Bass . There he hooked up with James Coulter and in 1992 they left to launch Texas Pacific Group, aka TPG. In their first big deal they turned a $66 million bet on foundering Continental Airlines into a $640 million profit. Today TPG manages $73 billion. Bonderman still works out of Fort Worth while Coulter is based in San Francisco. He resigned from the board of Uber in June 2017 after offending fellow boardmember Arianna Huffington with comment implying that having more women on the board would lead to more talking. For his 60th birthday Bonderman hired the Rolling Stones and Robin Williams . For his 70th it was Paul McCartney at Wynn in Las Vegas. Quote: "Private equity is not immune to market forces. You buy in the market, you sell in the market. When nobody is buying we can’t sell, when nobody is selling we can’t buy.”
28. Lee Bass
In early 2017 Lee Bass and his three brothers sold their oil company, originally inherited from tycoon great-uncle Sid Richardson (d. 1959) to ExxonMobil for $6 billion. A devoted outdoorsman, Lee has been instrumental in protecting rhinoceroses worldwide, and is responsible for bringing critically endangered black rhinos and white rhinos to the Fort Worth Zoo. Lee spent 12 years as commissioner of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. His El Coyote ranch in south Texas is home to an elite herd of Texas longhorn cattle. In 1991 Lee donated $20 million to alma mater Yale for a new program in Western Civilization. After outcry against Lee’s insistence that he get to approve the program’s professors, Yale canceled the program and returned the donation. The Lee & Ramona Bass Foundation is endowed with more than $50 million.
29. Edward Bass
Arguably Fort Worth’s biggest booster, Ed Bass has led the drive to revitalize the Texas city, focusing on its downtown Sundance Square and $65 million Bass Performance Hall, which opened in 1998. Now under construction is a new $450 million arena — with half its cost being borne by Bass and other donors. Once called “a Texas-bred cross between Prince Charles and Lorenzo de Medici ,” Ed is the Renaissance man among the Bass brothers and was once the money behind Biosphere 2. He also owns ranches in Texas and Flint Hills of Kansas where he is devoted to seeding with native grasses. Waxing philosophical during a press conference for Sundance Square, he once said, “Wealth is not, you know, a matter of money. It is a matter of being able to forwardly organize our lives in a positive way.” With his three brothers, Ed inherited several million from oil tycoon great-uncle Sid Richardson (d. 1959). By the time they sold their oil interests to ExxonMobil in 2017 for $6 billion they’d already been diversifying for 40 years.
30. George Bishop
In one of the biggest scores of the oil boom, George Bishop’s Geosouthern Energy sold its south Texas fields to Devon Energy for $6 billion in late 2013. He has since redeployed capital in the Haynesville shale natural gas play in Louisiana. Believed to own Chub Cay island in the Bahamas and a golf course near Houston. Very private.
31. Bert "Tito" Beveridge
The man behind Tito's vodka, of which he sells an estimated 44 million bottles per year. Beveridge grew up riding horses in San Antonio. At U.T. he earned degrees in geology and geophysics. But 1997 oil and gas had driven him to the drinks trade. He launched Tito's with $90,000 on 19 credit cards. Won the World Spirits Competition in 2001. Defensive of his rep: "If someone tells me my brand isn’t a craft-distilled spirit because it’s too big, I just say, ‘I make it the same way I’ve always made it. I just have a lot more stills."
32. W. Herbert Hunt
One of 15 children (by three women) of legendary oil wildcatter H.L. Hunt , Herbert in the 1970s joined with brother Nelson Bunker Hunt (d. 2014) to try and corner the world silver market. They built a consortium with rich Saudis that accumulated 195 million ounces. Then silver collapsed 80% in 1980 and the brothers fell of the Forbes 400 and into bankruptcy. Hunt endured in the oil business; his Petro-Hunt sold oilfields in North Dakota in 2013 to publicly traded Halcon Resources for $1.5 billion in cash and stock.
33. Drayton McLane
McLane started work at age nine sweeping floors on at his family's grocery distribution company. A few years later he took over as CEO and ran McLane for 30 years, averaging 30% annual sales growth. That got the attention of his friend Sam Walton , who in 1991 bought McLane for $50 million plus 10.4 million shares of Walmart. Gives to Baylor and Michigan State. Sold his majority stake in the Houston Astros in 2011 to Jim Crane . Teaches Sunday school.
34. H. Ross Perot, Jr.
In 2017 Perot Jr. moved his dad and 250 employees into the 350,000 square foot family office he built on Turtle Creek in Dallas. It features a 100,000 gallon cistern to collect stormwater for irrigation. Perot’s Hillwood real estate company sold 15 million square feet of industrial space last year and continues to build data centers for Facebook and distribution centers for Amazon. Perot developed the 18,000 acre AllianceTexas logistics center in Fort Worth, but is determined to make a lasting contribution to the Dallas skyline — he’s working with famed architect Norman Foster on a 70-story skyscraper project. Still awed by his 86-year-old father: “I got to see the American dream unfold in my living room.” F
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