SINCE WE FIRST BEGAN TRACKING the wealthiest Texans in 1989, the state’s economy has limped along while the superrich Texans have glided above the fray. But now, in our fourth year on the trail of the one hundred richest Texans, reality has crept into the boardrooms and mansions. A minimum net worth of $100 million was needed to make the list in 1989. That figure rose to $120 million in 1990, then eased up again to $130 million in 1991. This year’s shrinking of 22 fortunes has pushed the cutoff needed to earn a spot on the Texas 100 back to $120 million. Still, 44 of the 90 returnees held their ground, and 24 fortunes increased.
Times may be tough, but financial empires are constantly being built and discovered. Eight newcomers debut on this year’s list. Dallas investor Thomas Hicks rode the eighties’ leveraged buyout frenzy into the nineties and onto the Texas 100. Sam Wyly, another Dallas dealmaker, specialized in founding and then selling a variety of companies. Houston is home to five of our other rookies. Robert Onstead began Randall’s Food Markets, now Houston’s grocery-market leader. We extend a warm welcome to Harold Goodman, the owner of Houston’s only residential air conditioner manufacturer. Mary Ralph Lowe and brothers Dan and Bruce Harrison join the list courtesy of oil and gas inheritances. El Paso has its first entry with James Cardwell, the builder of a nation-wide truck-stop chain. And Vernon’s Electra Waggoner Biggs and cousin Bucky Wharton, the heirs to a ranching and oil and gas kingdom, return from 1989’s Texas 100.
The addition of new Texas 100 members means the loss of others. We bid farewell to media heiress Jessica Hobby Catto, the Toyota distributor Thomas Friedkin, and Koch Industries heir E. Pierce Marshall, not because of falling fortunes, but because they live out-of-state. The further splintering of family empires led us to drop oilman Carlton Beal, Haggar Apparel’s Joseph Haggar, and Lennox International’s John Norris. A struggling Texas real estate market is taking its toll on apartment builder Harold Farb, developers Mack Pogue and Raymond Nasher, and hotel magnate Robert Woolley. Although they still preside over substantial wealth, the stronger visible assets of new Texas 100 members bumped them off the list.
Uncovering and valuing the assets of Texas’ wealthy is an ongoing process marked by fluctuating markets. Net worth estimates are guided by conservatism, especially in the area of debt. Private companies are valued by comparing them with similar publicly traded companies. Values were checked with industry analysts and local brokers familiar with the market. Oil and gas assets were calculated using estimates of reserves. Public stock holdings were priced on July 10. Assets held in the family businesses were attributed to a controlling family member. Finally, the invaluable insights provided by many members of the Texas 100 helped us refine our final figures.
As we move on into the nineties, a shaky real estate market, combined with the drying up of domestic drilling, could eat into many established fortunes, bringing more turnover. Money will come from enterprise rather than land and minerals, a trend evident in the source of wealth for five of 1992’s newcomers. Houston’s shopping center czar, Jerry J. Moore, laments, “I put in seventy hours a week, and for survival nowadays, that’s what’s necessary.” His remark reflects the attitude of the majority of the Texas 100 members: Whatever the road traveled to amass their megafortunes, hanging on to them in the nineties will not be easy.