Tio Kleberg

If there was ever a person with a reason to hold a grudge, that person is Stephen J. “Tio” Kleberg. Three years ago the man who was the living, breathing embodiment of the King Ranch found his world upended. He had clashed with other descendants of Richard King, the founder of the historic South Texas spread, over how best to run the King Ranch corporation’s vast petroleum, cattle, and other holdings, and he had lost. Ousted from his position as the head of the organization’s U.S. and Brazilian agricultural business and its local ranching operations, Kleberg faced an uncertain future. Bitterness, however, does not seem to be part of the King legacy. “My heart is always there,” he said when reached by phone, “but I figured if I couldn’t lead, I’d better get out of the way.” He and his wife, Janell, live on the property, just as they always have, and he serves as a director of the corporation. But the boards of four institutions (among them the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Foundation) and various family investments and businesses (including Mama’s Cafes in San Antonio and Houston) now command his attention too. He and Janell have more time these days for their three far-flung children (a grandchild is on the way), and he’s taking it easy (“I’m playing a hell of a lot of golf,” he says). Asked if he still has his omnipresent unlit cigar and handlebar mustache, the 55-year-old Kleberg said with a laugh, “Absolutely—I’ve got a fresh cigar in my hand, and my mustache is getting whiter.”

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