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Telling Fortunes

No. 13: Jeffrey Hildebrand

Age: 54Home: HoustonNet Worth: $5.5 billion

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. Using advanced technology, the company boosted well production, and it has since become famous for sharing its success: in 2011 each of Hilcorp’s 699 employees received a $50,000 bonus toward a new car in a program designed to reward workers for doubling the company’s value, production rate, and reserves over five years. (If these double again by 2015, each employee could get $100,000.) An early investor in the Eagle Ford Shale, Hildebrand sold his interests in 2011 to Marathon Oil for $1.4 billion—more than ten times his initial investment—and has plowed the returns into other shale plays, such as the Utica, in Ohio, as well as the offshore fields of Cook Inlet, Alaska. This couldn’t have come at a better time for Cook Inlet. After production dwindled under previous owners, utilities in southern Alaska feared having to shut down power plants in the dead of winter. But Hilcorp, as usual, is boosting output, and so far it has provided enough gas to keep the plants running through 2018. Hildebrand and his wife, Mindy, are regulars on Houston’s social circuit and have given to the Houston Zoo and the Contemporary Arts Museum. 


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