How Do We Feel About Space Exploration Companies Buying Up A Bunch Of Cheap Texas Land?

If you pass through Van Horn, you might be surprised to encounter the beautiful and historic Hotel El Capitan, which was purchased in 2007 by Lanna and Joe Duncan—the same couple responsible for the El Paisano Hotel in Marfa—and renovated to the tune of $2.5 million. Unlike Marfa, whose quirky charms have made it a popular tourist destination, Van Horn is a sparse town with a population of under 2,000. It's within a few hours of both Big Bend and Carlsbad Caverns, but there's little that makes Van Horn, whose per-capita income is $13,775, an obvious location for a higher-end hotel with an upscale restaurant/bar on its ground floor. But if you spend an evening in the Hotel El Capitan bar, you're likely to get your first clue: There will probably be some contractors who work with Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin aerospace company enjoying steaks and watching basketball, before heading out in the morning to install, say, a liquid nitrogen system at the "Corn Ranch" facility that Blue Origin operates nearby. 

Bezos owns 290,000 acres of West Texas property just outside of Van Horn. On the one hand, that's awesome: Space exploration is fascinating and if a multi-billionaire wants to spend a bunch of money figuring out new and better ways to go to outer space, well, there are a lot of less interesting things he could be doing with that money. Science is cool and there's something nice about the fact that five decades after the Apollo Program began, the home of space exploration is still Texas.

On the other hand, here's a 2006 story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about what Bezos is like as a neighbor

This Story About A San Antonio Stripper/Accused Murderer Is Nuts

Here's how a person get recruited into the world of gay porn, according to a completely bonkers story about one such recruit—a 26-year-old man from San Antonio named John William Snavely—from the Houston Press:

He was stripping at several gay clubs in his hometown of San Antonio. One night, an older customer sidled up to the stage where the young Sylvester Stallone lookalike was gyrating in a baseball hat, sneakers and underwear. ...Soon Snavely found himself talking to the stranger's associate: a South Florida porn recruiter named Justin Caro, better known as Baileey.

Baileey was himself a former gay-porn star who now excelled at enticing young hunks from across America into similar careers. Listening to his pitch, Snavely was polite but confident, asking questions about how much money he could make in South Florida. "John knew how to sell himself," Baileey says. "Whether it was stripping or porn, he knew what his best attributes were."

It would take several months of flying to San Antonio for Baileey to persuade Snavely to appear in gay porn. Despite dancing for men, Snavely insisted he was straight. But Baileey nonetheless saw in him the makings of a star.

"I've been in the business for 21 years, so I pretty much know what people are looking for," he says. "John had a universal look: good-looking, clean-cut, white guy, no tattoos, well-endowed. That's exactly what the industry wants."

In the end, the offer was too tempting for ­Snavely — a poor kid from the wrong side of San Antonio — to ignore. He flew to Los Angeles for his first porn shoots. Then he moved to Fort Lauderdale in early 2010, staying in what Baileey called his "model house," a low-slung three-bedroom home in Searstown.

Snavely's not the subject of a longform story strictly because the world of gay porn and how a person enters it is so compelling—though it certainly is that—but because the life that he found himself living once he got to South Florida led him to genuinely shocking and horrifying situations—of which, according to police, he was the perpetrator.

Claus Pummer, Sleep Coach

Formally trained as a furniture maker, Pummer, a native of Frankfurt, Germany, began specializing in bed frames in 1998. His research into bed-design principles led him to a sleep psychology institute in Austria, where he soon became certified as a sleep coach. Today, in addition to owning a home furnishings showroom in Dallas’s Design District, he offers in-home consultations on how to attain the best sleep possible. 

Texas Business Report: Boom Goes the Housing Market

Built to the Brim

A boom in the Texas housing market is stretching homebuilders thin as they fight to keep up with exploding demand, Businessweek reported this week. Home prices in Houston and Dallas are “up more than at any time since the oil boom of the 1980s,” and the state saw a record number of residential sales in the second quarter of 2013.

Texas Business Report: Cuban's Insider Trading Crisis

Cuban Confidential

Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank panelist Mark Cuban is back in court this week to defend himself against a federal insider-trading lawsuit that has spanned nearly a decade. The Securities and Exchange Commission claims Cuban “broke a promise of confidentiality and traded on private information that gave him an advantage over other investors” when he sold his stock in the Internet search company in 2004, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

At the center of the investigation is a phone call between Cuban and Mamma’s CEO, who mentioned an upcoming private offering that was likely to dilute the company’s stock value, prompting Cuban to dump his shares. The SEC claims both parties had agreed to keep the conversation confidential, which would have barred the Mavs owner from unloading his stock until the news went public. Cuban, who was the company’s largest shareholder at the time, claims he never agreed to confidentiality.

The Bottom Line: The SEC hopes to reclaim about $750,000 in losses that Cuban dodged by bailing out early, plus an additional fine, according to the Star-Telegram. There are no criminal charges involved in the trial, which will resume on Monday.

Texas Business Report: Gannet Got It Good

The Love Belo

Shareholders of Dallas-based TV broadcasting company Belo Corp. voted this week to approve the company’s sale to Gannett in a deal worth $1.5 billion. If the deal closes by the end of the year as expected, Gannett will be one of the nation’s largest TV-station owners, the Wall Street Journal reports. The addition of Belo’s twenty stations brings its total portfolio up to 43. The only remaining hurdle in finalizing the acquisition is securing approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, which have requested further information from the companies.

The Bottom Line: Seventy-three percent of shareholders voted in favor of the sale, despite some recent speculation that Belo could have gotten a better deal if it had put itself up for auction, according to the Journal. The June announcement of the sale sparked a bump in the company’s stock price as hedge funds jumped on the bandwagon, “expecting either another buyer to swoop in or for Gannett to sweeten its bid.”

The Forbes Methodology

Forbes 400 net-worth estimates are a snapshot of each list member’s wealth on August 23. Some members will become richer or poorer within days of publication. To compile its rankings, Forbes started with a list of more than six hundred individuals considered to be strong candidates, then met with them in person when possible and also interviewed their employees, handlers, rivals, peers, and attorneys.


Subscribe to RSS - Business