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Telling Fortunes

No. 4: Harold Simmons

Age: 82Home: DallasNet Worth: $10 billion 

Harold Simmons has made a fortune courting controversy. His holding company Contran owns interests in chemicals, metals, waste management, and industrial products; one subsidiary, lead-based paint maker NL Industries, has left a trail of environmental liabilities, while another, Waste Control Specialists, recently backed a plan to store low-level radioactive waste in the Panhandle. Simmons, who grew up without electricity or plumbing in Golden, near Tyler, got his start in 1960 when—using $5,000 of his own money and $95,000 he borrowed—he bought a drugstore in Dallas, near Southern Methodist University. Thirteen years later, he owned one hundred stores and sold the company to Eckerd for $50 million. With those proceeds, he became a player in the corporate raider gambits of the eighties, investing in Amalgamated Sugar, McDermott International, Muse Air, and, perhaps most famously, Lockheed. He was also among the first investors in an energy hedge fund run by fellow billionaire T. Boone Pickens. An outspoken critic of government regulation, Simmons spent millions trying to defeat Barack Obama and has given millions more to Republican causes. 


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