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HOUSTON BILLIONAIRES

Fun fact for your next cocktail party: the newest Texan to join the Forbes 400 ranks is Bert “Tito” Beveridge, founder of Tito’s vodka. The 55-year-old entrepreneur will sell close to 60 million bottles this year, enough to earn him an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion.

Overall, America’s rich just keep getting richer — thanks in large part to Internet Bubble 2.0. The Forbes 400 net worth cut off this year was a record-high $2 billion. In Texas, low oil prices have flatlined the growth in some fortunes, like that of San Antonio natural gas tycoon Rod Lewis and business legend Red McCombs. They may still be billionaires, but they’re no longer rich enough to make the Forbes 400. Another conspicuous absence from this Texas rich list is Charles Butt, the scion of the family behind the beloved HEB supermarket chain. Because of company stakes held by other family members, we’ve reassigned the Butts as a family fortune, estimated at $10.7 billion.

There’s certainly plenty of Texans who have deep enough moneybags to be in the Forbes 400 but don’t show up yet because our intrepid reporters (including Noah Kirsch, Michela Tindera, Max Jedeur-Palmgren, Igor Bosilkovski, Yinan Che, Deniz Cam and Andrea Murphy) haven’t yet nailed down the numbers beyond a reasonable doubt. If you have a secret billionaire dossier you want to share, drop me a line at chelman@forbes.com.

 

1. Richard Kinder – $6.7 billion
After stepping down as president of Enron, Kinder cofounded pipeline giant Kinder Morgan in 1997. In 2014 he ended his career with a $70 billion megadeal that consolidated four affiliated companies into one goliath that now owns or operates 84,000 miles of pipe. The oil downturn hit the company hard; in 2015 it slashed its dividend 75%. Now removed from the day-to-day action, Kinder is focused on giving it away. The Kinder Foundation has donated tens of millions of dollars to build parks along Houston’s network of bayous and new buildings for the Museum of Fine Art. An avid reader, Kinder is a big fan of Winston Churchill: “Probably the greatest person of the 20th century in terms of the direct contributions of one individual.”

2. Randa Williams – $5.5 billion

3. Dannine Avara – $5.5 billion

4. Milane Frantz – $5.5 billion

5. Scott Duncan – $5.5 billion
Thanks to a temporary repeal of the death tax, when pipeline tycoon Dan Duncan died in 2010 at 77 he became the first American billionaire to pass his fortune to his four kids tax free. Randa Williams is non-executive chairman of Enterprise Products, which owns 50,000 miles of pipeline, market cap $56 billion.

6. Robert McNair
$3.8 billion
Owner of the NFL’s Houston Texans stepped up in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and pledged $1 million for relief efforts. McNair secured the NFL franchise for Houston for $700 million in 1999 and created the league’s youngest expansion team. He sold his power generator company Cogen Technologies to Enron for $1.5 billion in 1999, and now invests in public and private equity. He and his wife, Janice, donate more than $20 million each year to their foundation dedicated to education. Called President Trump’s comments on NFL players kneeling “divisive and counterproductive.”

7. Dan Friedkin – $3.7 billion
Friedkin owns Gulf States Toyota, the $8 billion (est. sales) car distributor built by his father, Thomas (d. 2017) that enjoys exclusive rights to sell Toyotas in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Also has invested in a film production studio that’s set to release its first movie, a story based on the kidnapping of oil heir J. Paul Getty III, later this year. He owns one of the largest collections of vintage military war planes and is a wildlife conservationist working to preserve 6 million acres in Tanzania.

8. Jeffery Hildebrand – $3.6 billion
A former ExxonMobil geologist, Hildebrand co-founded Hilcorp in 1990, later bought out his partner for $500 million. By specializing in squeezing more oil and gas out of mature fields, he has built Hilcorp into the nation’s biggest privately owned oil company with operations in Texas, Louisiana, Alaska and Ohio. In 2011 and 2012 he netted about $3 billion selling oilfields and pipelines in south Texas. Reinvested in Alaska’s Cook Inlet and North Slope. In 2015 Hildebrand gave each of his 1,400 employees a $100,000 bonus after they doubled the size of his company in five years. This year he teamed with Carlyle Group to buy ConocoPhillips Colorado gas fields for $3 billion. Funded a $32 million equestrian center at Texas A&M. In Aspen, Colorado, he owns a 1,000-acre ranch that used to belong to John Denver. With wife Mindy he opened Houston’s River Oaks Donuts.

9 – Tilman Fertitta
$3.5 billion
Fertitta has turned “eatertainment” into an empire. His Landry’s restaurant brands include Bubba Gump Shrimp, Saltgrass Steak House, and every parent’s animatronic gorilla nightmare: Rainforest Cafe. Fertitta also owns the Golden Nugget Casinos, the Bentley and Rolls-Royce dealerships in Houston’s newest and most luxurious hotel, The Post Oak Hotel. Last year the NBA approved his $2.2 billion purchase of the Houston Rockets; let the cross-marketing bonanza begin!

10. John Arnold – $3.3 billion
Arnold was a wunderkind natural gas trader who earned Enron $750 million the year before its collapse. From its ashes he launched his own fund Centaurus Advisors, where he churned out triple digit returns for several years. He shocked the hedge fund world upon announcing in 2012 at age 38 that he was retiring and cashing out. His net worth could be considerably higher than our conservative Forbes estimate. Arnold now focuses his brainpower on strategic philanthropy, pushing much-needed, large-scale policy reform in criminal justice, public pensions and junk science. He and wife Laura have given $500 million to the Arnold Foundation.

11. George Bishop – $2.5 billion – The Woodlands
In one of the biggest scores of the oil boom, George Bishop’s Geosouthern Energy sold its south Texas fields to Devon Energy for $6 billion in late 2013. He has since redeployed capital in the Haynesville shale natural gas play in Louisiana. Believed to own Chub Cay island in the Bahamas and a golf course near Houston. Very private.

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