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.
When Bob Rowling makes the news, there’s typically a conservative cause somewhere in the story. Last year, reports placed him and his company, TRT Holdings, among the top givers to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC, to the tune of $6 million. A longtime donor to Rick Perry, he resigned from his Perry-appointed spot on the UT Board of Regents after throwing his support to Kay Bailey Hutchison before the 2010 governor’s race.
Jeffrey Hildebrand founded Hilcorp with two partners in 1989, after a career at Exxon. Like many oil patch start-ups, Hilcorp grew by buying proven fields that larger competitors considered too small.
This quiet billionaire owns an estimated 15 percent stake in the closely held Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in America. But perhaps more notably, the septuagenarian is the only one on this year’s Forbes 400 List who can call herself Anna Nicole Smith’s former daughter-in-law. Her late husband, E.
The four children of Dan L. Duncan found themselves thrust onto this list after their father died of a cerebral hemorrhage, in 2010. Duncan, who was the richest man in Houston at the time of his death, was born poor in the East Texas hamlet of Center. He experienced tragedy at age seven, when his brother died of blood poisoning and his mother died of tuberculosis; as a teenager he followed his father’s example and went to work as a roughneck. Later he became an accountant for Wanda Petroleum.
One of H. L. Hunt’s fourteen kids, Ray Hunt inherited a wildcatter’s sense of how to make a play from his dad. So while his half brothers Bunker and Herbert were sitting on silver and going bankrupt in the eighties, Ray was growing H. L.’s original company, Hunt Oil. And now he’s a twenty-first-century global wildcatter, with huge holdings in places like Yemen and Peru.
Charles Butt began sacking groceries at one of his family’s H-E-B stores when he was eight years old, and he’s worked at the supermarket chain ever since. Now chairman and CEO, Butt has built H-E-B into one of the largest private companies in the country, with a revenue of more than $19.4 billion. Not bad, considering his grandmother Florence had to borrow $60 in 1905 to open the grocery in her Kerrville home.