In the past five years of recession and slow recovery, Texas has earned a reputation for being a pocket of prosperity. But who is putting that prosperity in his pocket? To find out, we partnered with Forbes Magazine, which published its annual Forbes 400 list earlier this week (see below for an explanation of the Forbes methodology). The 41 Texans seen here all made the cut; they’re our state’s wealthiest individuals, as determined by Forbes’s painstaking research. Their cumulative net worth is $200.7 billion, nearly as much as the current state budget. Who are they? Some you’d expect: Alice Walton (whose $33.5 billion makes her the country’s eighth-richest person), Michael Dell, Charles Butt, and dynastic names like Bass and Hunt. But others represent relatively newer fortunes, minted in the Barnett and Eagle Ford shale plays or in lucrative pipeline and oil-field services: Richard Kinder, Jeffrey Hildebrand, Trevor Rees-Jones, Kelcy Warren, the Duncan siblings, and the Wilks brothers. There are scant women on the list this year and just four people—Dell, Mark Cuban, and Ross Perot Sr. and Jr.—with ties to high tech (Rackspace CEO Graham Weston, on last year’s list, has since fallen off). In fact, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. In 1982, the first year that Forbes produced its list, Texans accounted for 17 percent of the roster, riding the crest of an oil boom. This year they make up 10 percent, but 21 of the 41 have ties to oil and gas. And if today’s predictions are correct—some say oil production could double by 2020—it’s possible that Texans may soon redefine wealth entirely. (Text by Nate Blakeslee, Pamela Colloff, S.C. Gwynne, Sonia Smith, John Spong, Loren Steffy, Mimi Swartz, Andrea Valdez, and Katy Vine.)
No. 1: Alice Walton
There’s rich, and then there’s Walton rich. The family of Walmart founders Sam and Bud Walton is today collectively worth $115.7 billion, making it the wealthiest clan in the world. Probably its most visible member is Alice Walton, the richest person in Texas. But don’t be intimidated. She just so happens to be the sort of mega-billionaire you could have a beer with. Walton is attractive but resolutely plain, wearing little makeup and pulling her hair into a casual bun or ponytail. Her pleasantly weathered face reflects her love of the outdoors. When she throws a dinner party, she cooks the meal herself. She lives in a modest one-story ranch house in Millsap, west of Fort Worth, where she raises her beloved cutting horses. She has made the news for her tendency to get in trouble while behind the wheel—in 1983 she lost control of a rented Jeep and plunged into a ravine; in 1989, driving her own Porsche, she hit and killed a fifty-year-old woman (no charges were filed); and in 1998 she was convicted of drinking and driving. But she is best known today as the force behind Crystal Bridges, the magnificent art museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, that opened to rave reviews in 2011. Alice has been her family’s most generous philanthropist, but the museum, which features hundreds of millions of dollars in art from her private collection, has taken her public presence to a new level.
No. 2: Michael Dell
The oldest son of an orthodontist father and a stockbroker mother in Houston, Michael Dell applied to take his high school equivalency exam in the third grade. (His parents insisted he stay in the classroom.) In high school, he sold newspaper subscriptions, checking marriage licenses and mortgage applications to target potential customers; when his smart salesmanship earned him more in commissions than his economics teacher’s salary, he used the proceeds to buy an Apple II and took it apart to see how it worked. As a freshman at the University of Texas, Dell began upgrading computers and selling them out of his dorm. By 1992, at age 27, he was the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and by 2000 Dell Inc. was selling 35 million dollars’ worth of computers a day. With his wife, Susan, Dell has become a well-known philanthropist, giving to children’s causes, medical education, and community initiatives around the world. His namesake company missed the boat on tablets and mobile devices, but in September Dell succeeded in buying it back, for $25 billion, so he could take it private. He now intends to move the Round Rock–based computer maker into the more lucrative realm of business services. If the past is any guide, watch out.
No. 3: Richard Kinder
Out of the ashes of Enron came Rich Kinder, a.k.a. Houston’s Mr. Big. When he stepped down as president of the so-called world’s greatest company in 1996 to found a simple pipeline business with his friend William Morgan, only a few understood the colossus to come: a corporation now worth $110 billion, the biggest midstream company of its kind and the third-largest energy company in North America. What brilliance accounts for his success? Well, Kinder is frugal and disciplined, checking on money going out and money coming in—there are no corporate jets, no flashy offices, and he pays himself $1 a year in salary. With his wife, Nancy, he has become a major giver in Houston, focusing on parks, education, and quality of life. Kinder Foundation projects such as the downtown park Discovery Green and a Buffalo Bayou reclamation effort have both given the lie to the city’s reputation as a concrete wasteland. Kinder is now also the chair of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
No. 4: Harold Simmons
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.
No. 5: Andrew Beal
The founder of one of the state’s biggest private banks is also a math whiz who taught himself number theory; in 1993 Andy Beal used his bank’s fifteen computers to work up the Beal Conjecture, a generalization of Fermat’s Last Theorem that made him famous (he has put up a prize of $1 million for anyone who can prove or disprove it). His math skills were also on display when, between 2001 and 2004, he took on sixteen of the world’s best players in a series of very high-stakes games. But Beal’s main strength is seeing value where others do not. In the eighties he ran a savings and loan whose purpose it was to buy up loan portfolios of troubled banks and other S&L institutions. During 2008 and 2009, as the country was reeling from the financial crash, Beal bought up assets that everyone else was dumping—at ridiculously deep discounts—so that while the combined net worth of the four hundred richest people in America dropped by a collective $300 billion, he saw his own net worth triple.
No. 6: Charles Butt and Family
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. Butt took over in 1971 from his father, Howard, the company’s namesake, and today H-E-B has some 350 stores in Texas and Mexico and more than 80,000 employees. Butt, who has no children, is a longtime supporter of educational causes; H-E-B gives 5 percent of pretax earnings to charity and thousands of pounds of groceries to local food banks each year. While Walmart and other national chains have drawn criticism for low pay, H-E-B prides itself on compensating employees fairly.
No. 8: Ray L. Hunt
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. Closer to home, he missed out on the Barnett Shale but not the Eagle Ford; in 2011 he sold one third of Hunt Oil’s stake in the South Texas shale play for $1.3 billion. He occasionally makes the wrong kind of headlines, as in 2007, when he inked a deal with the regional Kurdish government to look for oil in northern Iraq. Iraqi Arabs were incensed that the Kurds were trying to shut them out, the State Department expressed annoyance that the agreement might undermine the fragile Iraqi government, and Bush critics accused Hunt—a longtime Bush family friend who’d recently given Southern Methodist University $35 million to purchase land for a presidential library and museum—of working a sweetheart deal. No matter. Earlier this year, Hunt Oil hit it big in Kurdistan and the Bush library and museum opened to great fanfare in University Park.
Nos. 9, 10, 11, and 12: Dannine Avara, Scott Duncan, Milane Duncan Frantz, Randa Duncan Williams
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. Having learned the oil business from the ground up, in 1968 he founded Enterprise Products Partners with a truck and $10,000. Soft-spoken and unassuming, Duncan saw opportunity in the sleepy sidelines of oil transportation: he began to buy up pipeline networks—which were expensive to build and maintain—from large oil companies, who happily paid him a fee for moving their product. His decision was prescient and profitable: in 1998 Enterprise went public, and today it operates some 50,000 miles of pipeline as well as storage facilities and marine transport. An avid game hunter, Duncan was also a committed philanthropist, giving hundreds of millions to Houston-area hospitals, including $100 million toward the creation of a cancer center at Baylor College of Medicine. He was also the first American billionaire to pay no estate tax: the law lapsed in 2010, the year he died, because of a legislative loophole. And so Duncan’s children inherited billions that might otherwise have gone to the government. Like their father, they keep a low profile, drawing scant attention even in Houston’s society pages. In February Randa, the oldest, was named nonexecutive chairman of Enterprise GP Holdings, where she has served on the board since her father’s death. A former practicing attorney, she is also on the boards of the Houston Zoo, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation. Earlier this year Dannine was identified as a target of a California con man’s extortion scheme; Milane serves on the board of the Hermann Park Conservancy. Meanwhile, Scott, at age thirty, is the country’s youngest billionaire not connected to a social media company.
No. 7: Elaine Marshall and Family
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. Pierce Marshall, also valued his privacy, but the couple found themselves under the klieg lights during the protracted legal battle that broke out between Pierce, his brother, and the famous Texas Playmate over the estate of multimillionaire J. Howard Marshall II, who died in 1995. This feud has spawned endless tabloid coverage and two Supreme Court cases; in the second case, Chief Justice John Roberts compared the whole imbroglio to Charles Dickens’s Bleak House. While E. Pierce Marshall died of an undisclosed infection in 2006, some of this legal wrangling continues, including a fight with the Internal Revenue Service over millions in back taxes the agency believes it is owed.
No. 13: Jeffrey Hildebrand
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.
No. 14: Robert Rowling
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. And he first made headlines in the nineties, after purchasing the Omni hotel chain and dropping on-demand porn from in-room amenities. Rowling tried lawyering before joining his dad’s oil and gas company, in 1981. During the bust they expanded, then cashed out big to Texaco—$476.5 million—in 1989, at which point the younger Rowling diversified. The Omni chain came in 1996, followed by Gold’s Gym in 2004, and both have grown steadily since. Now, through generous giving to the University of Texas, the family name is on the east side of Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium and will soon be on a new 458,000-square-foot hall at the McCombs School of Business.
No. 15: Trevor Rees-Jones
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. In 2006 Rees-Jones sold his Barnett interests for $2.63 billion and shifted his investment to the giant Marcellus Shale, in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, where he ended up leasing 600,000 acres. He hit the jackpot a second time when he sold his positions in much of that formation in 2012. Since his ship came in, Rees-Jones has given $25 million to the Boy Scouts, $25 million to Dallas’s Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and millions more to the Salvation Army and various other charities.
No. 16: John Paul Dejoria
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 1989 DeJoria decided America needed a premium tequila and co-founded Patrón Spirits. His buddy Clint Eastwood featured Patrón in a film, his other buddy Wolfgang Puck served it in his restaurants, and today it sells nearly 2.4 million cases a year. Committed to environmental and social causes, DeJoria also started a jewelry company that sells only conflict-free diamonds. Among his charitable priorities are saving whales, teaching impoverished Appalachian families to grow their own food, and sheltering abused Austin kids. He even wrote a letter once that persuaded Wheel of Fortune to stop awarding furs.
No. 17: Henry Ross Perot Sr.
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. He founded Electronic Data Systems and, in the seventies, became the first high-tech billionaire. In 1984 he sold the company to General Motors for $2.5 billion, then started Perot Systems, which he sold to Dell Inc., in 2009, for $3.9 billion. Of course, Perot is just as famous for his nonbusiness activities, including staging the rescue of two EDS employees who were imprisoned in Iran in 1979 and leading a movement in the eighties to reform education in Texas, one that involved the implementation of statewide testing for the first time. In 1992 he changed the course of American politics by running for president as an independent; by taking 19 percent, he virtually guaranteed Bill Clinton’s victory. He has not held the center of the American stage again.
No. 18: Kelcy Warren
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. He recently caused a splash in Dallas by giving a reported $10 million to downtown’s new Klyde Warren Park—named after his ten-year-old son—but what he really wants to do is sing. He owns a recording studio in Austin, and in his $29 million, 27,200-square-foot castle in Preston Hollow, there is a hidden door in a walk-in closet that leads to a secret room filled with guitars.
No. 19: William Herbert Hunt
H. L. Hunt’s third-born son lost his fortune in the early eighties after joining his brother Bunker and several Saudis in a bid to corner the world’s silver market, buying up 60 percent of the U.S. supply before prices collapsed. He wound up filing for one of the largest bankruptcies in the nation’s history, but after years of living quietly, Hunt made his way back into the ranks of the world’s billionaires last year with new success in the old family business: oil and gas. The Highland Park resident sold off 43 percent of Petro-Hunt’s petroleum assets in North Dakota’s Bakken formation last October to Houston’s Halcón Resources, a move that puts him back on the Forbes list for the first time in 25 years.
No. 20: Jerry Jones
In 1989 Jerry Jones showed up in Dallas as a born salesman from Arkansas who had donned bow ties as a kid to greet customers at his dad’s grocery stores, sold shoes out of his car as a Razorback football player in the early sixties, and made enough money in oil and gas in the seventies that he was able to buy the Dallas Cowboys for around $150 million. But he didn’t get Forbes-list rich until he ran an end-around on the NFL’s exclusive sponsorship agreements, inking deals between the Cowboys’ Texas Stadium and advertisers like Nike and Pepsi. Today the Cowboys play in a $1.2 billion stadium in Arlington that is arguably the premier sports facility in the United States, and with their estimated $500 million stadium-naming agreement with AT&T, they are the highest-valued NFL franchise, at $2.3 billion. Too bad the team has won exactly one playoff game in the past sixteen seasons.
No. 21: John Arnold
It is hard to remember a Houston without John Arnold, who in 2001, at age 27, booked $750 million in profits as a natural gas trader for Enron. Still baby-faced at 39, Arnold has retired from his spectacularly successful energy-based hedge fund, Centaurus Advisors, and with his wife, Laura, now runs a foundation that has so far given away or pledged hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly in education. They have linked up with Texans for Lawsuit Reform to promote charter schools and online learning and are also involved in the Innocence Project, which works to free the wrongfully convicted. And in case it wasn’t already obvious, they have signed the Giving Pledge, along with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, promising to give away most of their money.
Nos. 22, 30, 31, and 37: Robert Bass, Edward Bass, Lee Bass, and Sid Bass
The great-uncle of brothers Sid, Ed, Robert, and Lee was the wildcatter Sid Richardson, who, the legend goes, borrowed $40 from his sister during the Depression and hit it rich in the Keystone oil field, west of Odessa. When he died, in 1959, he left a tidy sum to his sister’s son, Perry Bass, an oilman in his own right. Perry grew his inheritance into a vast fortune and groomed his four sons, who all attended Yale, to take over the family business. In 1970, two years after Sid graduated from Stanford Business School, he hired former classmate Richard Rainwater to help him manage the family’s wealth, and over the next sixteen years, they turned $50 million into roughly $5 billion. Sid also spearheaded the family’s efforts to revitalize downtown Fort Worth. Today Lee invests alongside Sid. A devoted conservationist, he also raises Longhorn cattle on his ranch near Kingsville and has championed the cause of the endangered black rhino. Robert stepped out of Sid’s shadow in the early eighties and founded his own successful private equity firm, the Robert M. Bass Group—now the Keystone Group—which specializes in buyouts. He is also the chairman of Aerion, which is developing a supersonic jet that will be capable of flying between Paris and New York in just over four hours. Ed, a self-styled “ecopreneur,” is best known for financing Biosphere II, the Arizona vivarium that housed eight researchers from 1991 to 1993. He has invested in a Puerto Rican rainforest preserve, built a hotel for trekkers in Kathmandu, and set up an experimental grass-seed farm in the Australian outback. Before Perry died, in 2006, Ed told Texas Monthly, “My father is such a remarkable man, it took the four of us to emulate all of his diverse qualities and interests.”
No. 23: David Bonderman
David Bonderman is known as a takeover artist. In 1992, when he was running Fort Worth billionaire Robert Bass’s investments, Bass balked at taking over Continental Airlines, which was undergoing its second bankruptcy in a decade. So Bonderman and a colleague struck out on their own, purchasing Continental for $66 million and forming the firm TPG. Five years later, the airline was valued at more than $700 million. Today, after twenty years of buying and selling and buying back companies as diverse as Harrah’s, Petco, and J. Crew, TPG is rated the world’s largest private equity sponsor. A Harvard law grad who favors left-leaning politics and garish socks, Bonderman pushes the companies he takes over to pursue sustainability and avoids businesses related to guns and tobacco. “Things that kill people,” he told Private Equity International, “we try to stay away from.”
No. 24: Richard Rainwater
The son of a Fort Worth grocer and a J. C. Penney sales clerk, Richard Rainwater got his start at 26, when Sid Bass stole him away from Goldman Sachs to manage the Bass family portfolio. Rainwater’s particular genius—buying troubled companies in faltering industries, installing new management, and turning huge profits—was most famously on display in 1984, when he and Sid invested $478 million in the then-floundering Walt Disney Company, a deal that reaped billions. Rainwater set up his own shop two years later and became a kingmaker, putting together the 1989 deal that allowed George W. Bush to buy a stake in the Texas Rangers and generating most of the future president’s personal wealth. Rainwater has largely retreated from view since 2009, when he was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy—a rare, incurable, degenerative brain disease.
No. 25: Mark Cuban
Mark Cuban co-founded the business that made him billions, Broadcast.com, in part so he could listen to college basketball games on the Internet. He sold it, bought the Mavericks, yelled at the refs from the stands with the rest of the fans, and won an NBA championship. Last election season, he started a Twitter brawl when he responded to Donald Trump’s bounties for Obama’s paperwork by putting up $1 million for Trump to shave his head. He’s like the funny, obnoxious, self-proclaimed visionary you drank beer with in college, except that his get-rich schemes actually got him rich. Very.
No. 26: Dan Friedkin
Dan Friedkin is the chairman and CEO of Gulf States Toyota, the sole Toyota distributor in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. Friedkin and his dad (who founded the company) have together donated more than $900,000 to Rick Perry. He garnered unwanted headlines in 2011 when a Federal Election Commission filing revealed that the governor’s presidential campaign had not properly compensated Friedkin’s aviation company for more than $45,000 in flight time on a private jet. Earlier that same year, Perry had named Friedkin the chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Friedkin, like his father, is an avid pilot, big-game hunter, and conservationist, and he heads up a family nonprofit that aims to preserve critical wildlife habitat in Tanzania.
No. 27: Timothy Headington
With his father having been a geologist, perhaps it is only natural that Timothy Headington took an interest in oil. In 1978 he founded Headington Oil, where he kept a low profile until 2008, when he sold acreage in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale to XTO Energy (now part of Exxon Mobil) and reaped $1.85 billion. Since then, he has invested millions in GK Films with the British producer Graham King and bankrolled movies such as Hugo and The Departed. His mark is increasingly evident in Dallas, where he owns two luxury boutique hotels, the Joule and the Hotel Lumen.
No. 28: Tilman Fertitta
Tilman Fertitta got his start as a fourteen-year-old working at his father’s Galveston restaurant, Pier 23. After buying Landry’s, a restaurant he’d worked at as a college student, he built an empire that included restaurants, aquariums in Denver and Houston, the San Luis Resort in Galveston, and the Kemah Boardwalk. Next came casinos: in 2005 he bought the Golden Nugget Las Vegas and the Golden Nugget Laughlin, and in 2014 he plans to open an eight-hundred-room Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, Louisiana. If gambling ever becomes legal in Texas, you won’t have to look hard for his name; it’ll be everywhere.
No. 29: Rodney Lewis
Sometimes it pays to start at the bottom. Rod Lewis began working for Stampede Energy in 1978 as a gauger—a tough job that required him to keep oil and gas wells running—and in the early eighties he used that experience, plus $13,000, to buy a sluggish well and jump-start its gas flow. Since that time, Lewis, now the CEO of Lewis Energy Group, has become the second-wealthiest person in San Antonio (after Charles Butt). Best known as an early comer to the Eagle Ford Shale, where his company has been drilling since 2002, Lewis has recently been drilling in Mexico. Using his bilingual skills and his sixth-generation South Texas roots, he got a contract with Mexico’s state-run petroleum company, Pemex, and became one of the first U.S. drillers allowed to produce natural gas south of the border.
No. 32: Robert McNair
Bob McNair is the man who brought pro football back to Houston. At the end of 1996, Houston had lost all love for the Oilers, who had announced they were moving to Tennessee for promises of a better stadium and higher ticket sales. After the team relocated, in 1997, McNair—who had just sold Cogen Technologies, a power plant operator and the largest privately owned cogeneration company in the world, to Enron for $1.5 billion—spent $700 million of his personal fortune to bid for the thirty-second expansion team in the NFL. He beat out Los Angeles and Toronto and won the franchise that eventually became the Houston Texans, now valued at $1.3 billion.
No. 33: Fayez Sarofim
Fayez Sarofim conjures an older Houston, a time in the early sixties when he was an ethnic oddity—a self-described Coptic Egyptian American who managed money for the superrich. He made himself quite comfortable in that role. Famous for steering clients away from Enron, he is now among the largest shareholders of Kinder Morgan and part owner of the Houston Texans—and is known around town by his first name only. Hint to fortune hunters: at 84, he still likes the ladies as much as he likes money.
No. 34: Ray Davis
Everybody learned Ray Davis’s name when he became a co-owner of the Texas Rangers, in 2010, but nobody learned much more because that’s the way Davis likes it. He’s no Mark Cuban. He’s not even former Rangers owner Eddie Chiles, the irascible oil-field services mogul who gave us Mario Mendoza and not much else (excepting his “I’m Mad Too, Eddie!” anti-regulation bumper stickers) in the eighties. Like Chiles, Davis is oil patch—he made his fortune buying and selling pipelines and natural gas until his retirement in 2007—but that’s where the similarities end. With back-to-back trips to the World Series and a net worth well past the billionaire mark, what is there to be mad about?
No. 35: Gerald J. Ford
Gerald J. Ford values efficiency, which has served him well in his work: Ford and his skeleton crew of twelve employees buy distressed financial institutions, consolidate and streamline their operations, and sell them to larger banks. A native of Pampa, Ford graduated from Southern Methodist University (the football stadium bears his name). His wife, Kelli, and their 25,000-square-foot Highland Park mansion enjoyed fifteen minutes of ostentatious glory in 2012 when HGTV’s Million Dollar Rooms featured the couple’s basement “room”: a two-thousand-square-foot Turkish bath–style spa.
No. 36: Drayton McLane Jr.
Drayton McLane grew the grocery business started by his granddad in 1894 into one of the country’s largest. After selling to Walmart in 1991, he bought the Houston Astros, partly because he considered baseball a family game, then secured a beautiful downtown ballpark and the ’Stros’ only National League pennant. Now out of baseball, last year he gave his alma mater, Baylor University, the biggest gift in school history for a new football stadium. Forbes reported that the amount was “north of $200 million.” McLane denied the figure but admitted paying for naming rights. His choice? Baylor Stadium.
No. 38: Henry Ross Perot Jr.
Though he grew up with a famous father, Ross Perot Jr. quickly established his own identity. When he was 23, he became the first person to circumnavigate the earth in a helicopter. He spent his twenties flying F-4 Phantom jets in the Air Force. In his thirties he created the real estate firm Hillwood, whose massive AllianceTexas project helped transform the I-35 corridor north of Fort Worth. He also went to work for his father’s Perot Systems, eventually becoming president in 2000 and chairman in 2004 and ultimately engineering the sale of the company to Dell Inc., in 2009, for a whopping $3.9 billion.
No. 39: Joe Jamail Jr.
Massive contingency fees, like the estimated $345 million he collected in Pennzoil v. Texaco back in the eighties, have made Joe Jamail America’s richest practicing lawyer. He’s one of the most generous too, having given away some $230 million, and the Jamail name can now be found on everything from the football field and the swim center at the University of Texas at Austin to the plaza in front of Rice University’s public policy school to a Houston skate park. But for some of us, his real legacy is the YouTube clip titled “Texas Style Deposition,” three minutes of a cross-examination cage match in an old case involving Monsanto. Parental guidance suggested.
Nos. 40 and 41: Dan Wilks and Farris Wilks
The Barnett and Eagle Ford shales may be known as oil and gas hot spots, but fracking has also brought some real money to Cisco, a heretofore anonymous dot between Fort Worth and Abilene. It was here, in 2002, that brothers Dan and Farris Wilks, the sons of a bricklayer, branched out from the family business to found Frac Tech, which designs, builds, and deploys the pumper rigs drillers use to blast open shale formations. After the shale gas industry took off, the brothers found themselves riding a wave that continued until 2011, when they sold their share of the company, by then the third-biggest fracking services outfit in the country, for $3.2 billion. They still make their home in Cisco, where they give of both their funds and time. For a new church community center, they didn’t just put up the money, they even did the masonry.
The Forbes Methodology
Forbes 400 net-worth estimates are a snapshot of each list member’s wealth on August 23. Some members will become richer or poorer within days of publication. To compile its rankings, Forbes started with a list of more than six hundred individuals considered to be strong candidates, then met with them in person when possible and also interviewed their employees, handlers, rivals, peers, and attorneys. Forbes staff pored over Securities and Exchange Commission documents, court records, probate records, federal financial disclosures, and Web and print stories, taking into account all assets they could value and factoring in debt. To value privately owned businesses, Forbes coupled estimates of revenues or profits with prevailing price-to-revenue or price-to-earnings ratios for similar public companies. Forbes did not include dispersed family fortunes when individual net worths were below its minimum of $1.3 billion, but it did include wealth belonging to a member’s immediate relatives if the wealth could be traced to one living individual; in that case “and family” serves as an indication. Forbes discounts shares that are pledged against debts.