David Bonderman is known as a takeover artist. In 1992, when he was running Fort Worth billionaire Robert Bass’s investments, Bass balked at taking over Continental Airlines, which was undergoing its second bankruptcy in a decade. So Bonderman and a colleague struck out on their own, purchasing Continental for $66 million and forming the firm TPG.
The great-uncle of brothers Sid, Ed, Robert, and Lee was the wildcatter Sid Richardson, who, the legend goes, borrowed $40 from his sister during the Depression and hit it rich in the Keystone oil field, west of Odessa. When he died, in 1959, he left a tidy sum to his sister’s son, Perry Bass, an oilman in his own right. Perry grew his inheritance into a vast fortune and groomed his four sons, who all attended Yale, to take over the family business.
It is hard to remember a Houston without John Arnold, who in 2001, at age 27, booked $750 million in profits as a natural gas trader for Enron. Still baby-faced at 39, Arnold has retired from his spectacularly successful energy-based hedge fund, Centaurus Advisors, and with his wife, Laura, now runs a foundation that has so far given away or pledged hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly in education.
In 1989 Jerry Jones showed up in Dallas as a born salesman from Arkansas who had donned bow ties as a kid to greet customers at his dad’s grocery stores, sold shoes out of his car as a Razorback football player in the early sixties, and made enough money in oil and gas in the seventies that he was able to buy the Dallas Cowboys for around $150 million.
H. L. Hunt’s third-born son lost his fortune in the early eighties after joining his brother Bunker and several Saudis in a bid to corner the world’s silver market, buying up 60 percent of the U.S. supply before prices collapsed. He wound up filing for one of the largest bankruptcies in the nation’s history, but after years of living quietly, Hunt made his way back into the ranks of the world’s billionaires last year with new success in the old family business: oil and gas.
Kelcy Warren knows pipe. He grew up welding with his dad for a modest pipeline company in East Texas and later found he had a knack for buying up undervalued pipeline outfits and squeezing money out of them. Along with Ray Davis (future co-owner of the Texas Rangers), he built Energy Transfer Partners into one of the nation’s largest pipeline companies, making himself a billionaire along the way.
With his jug ears, diminutive size, and Texarkana twang, Ross Perot may seem more like an extra in The Wizard of Oz than a man who revolutionized the computer business. But while wealthy Texans before him had made their money off the land—oil and gas, real estate—Perot made his fortune from ideas, in particular one brilliant one: that the ability to gather and process data efficiently was the signal skill of the Information Age.
A lifelong salesman who grew up dirt poor in L.A.’s Echo Park, DeJoria was going through a divorce and living out of his car when he and celebrity hairstylist Paul Mitchell started John Paul Mitchell Systems in 1980. They had two things going for them: the quality of the shampoo (it was single-application; no more rinse and repeat) and DeJoria’s sales ability. From an initial investment of $700, John Paul Mitchell Systems now sells $1 billion annually, in 87 countries. But that’s only the beginning.
In 1984 Trevor Rees-Jones gave up his career as a lawyer to search for oil. Then, in the late nineties, everything changed. With his venture Chief Oil and Gas, Rees-Jones was among the first to develop, on a large scale, a technology known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in the Barnett Shale. He soon found himself a major player in one of the largest oil and gas booms in history. By 2005 Chief was the second-biggest producer in the Barnett, delivering 100 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.