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10 Houston billionaires bank spots on Forbes' 2020 list of richest Americans

Rich Kinder, and his wife, Nancy, join an impressive list of Texans on the 2020 edition of the Forbes 400. Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group

In a booming, opportunity city full of tycoons, which billionaire reigns supreme? That honor goes to Richard Kinder, the pipeline mogul worth $6.2 billion — who is also a familiar name in philanthropic circles as a chief benefactor of Memorial Park. Locals may also recognize his name on the new Museum of Fine Arts, Houston building.

Kinder, and his wife, Nancy, join an impressive list of Texans on the 2020 edition of the Forbes 400, which ranks the 400 richest Americans and was released September 8. (See their methodology here.) "Pandemic be damned: America's 400 richest are worth a record $3.2 trillion, up $240 billion from a year ago, aided by a stock market that has defied the virus," Forbes writes.

Around Houston, the richest-of-the-rich list looks similar to recent years. Here's how local billionaires rank nationally in 2020 and how their wealth has fared:

Houston:

  • Richard Kinder — $6.2 billion, No. 103. Last year: $7.5 billion.
  • Pipeline heirs Dannine Avara, Scott Duncan, Milane Frantz, and Randa Duncan Williams — $4.8 billion each, No. 139. Last year: $6.3 billion.
  • Houston Rockets owner and restaurant kingpin Tilman Fertitta — $4.1 billion, No. 181. Last year: $4.9 billion.
  • Toyota titan Dan Friedkin of Houston — $4.1 billion, No. 181. Last year: $4 billion.
  • Houston Texans co-founder Janice McNair — $3.9 billion, No. 197. Last year: $4 billion.
  • Houston energy executive Jeffery Hildebrand — $3.6 billion, No. 222. Last year: $3.8 billion.
  • Former hedge fund manager John Arnold — $3.3 billion, No. 249. Last year: $3.3 billion.

Meanwhile, Walmart heiress Alice Walton of Fort Worth has retained her status as the richest Texan and America's richest woman in 2020, with a net worth estimated this year at $62.3 billion. That compares with $51.4 billion in 2019.

Walton moved up from No. 11 last year to No. 10 this year in the Forbes ranking of the richest Americans.

From 2019 to 2020, Walton's net worth jumped by $10.9 billion. To give you an idea of how much money that is, the size of the economy in Africa's Republic of Congo totaled $10.8 billion in 2019. Walton's entire net worth is slightly more than the size of the Costa Rican economy (nearly $61.8 billion in 2019).

Here's the regional breakdown for Texas' remaining Forbes 400 billionaires.

Dallas-Fort Worth:

  • Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — $8.6 billion, No. 56. Last year: $8.6 billion.
  • Dallas banker and real estate investor Andy Beal — $7.6 billion, No. 67. Last year: $9.8 billion.
  • Fort Worth oil and gas heir Robert Bass — $4.8 billion, No. 139. Last year: $4.9 billion.
  • Dallas oil and gas heir Ray Lee Hunt — $4.6 billion, No. 154. Last year: $5.2 billion.
  • Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban — $4.2 billion, No. 177. Last year: $4.1 billion.
  • Margot Birmingham Perot, widow of Dallas tech entrepreneur Ross Perot — $4 billion, No. 186. Last year: $4.2 billion.
  • Fort Worth private equity titan David Bonderman — $4 billion, No. 186. Last year: $3.7 billion.
  • Omni Hotels and Gold's Gym king Robert Rowling of Dallas — $3.9 billion, No. 197. Last year: $5.5 billion.
  • Oil and gas chief Trevor Rees-Jones of Dallas — $3.5 billion, No. 228. Last year: $3.7 billion.
  • Dallas pipeline executive Kelcy Warren — $2.8 billion, No. 299. Last year: $4.3 billion.
  • Dallas real estate honcho H. Ross Perot Jr. — $2.5 billion, No. 339. Last year: $2.2 billion.
  • Fort Worth oil heir Sid Bass — $2.3 billion, No. 359. Last year: $3.1 billion.
  • Dallas banker Gerald Ford — $2.1 billion, No. 391. Last year: $2.3 billion.

Austin:

  • Michael Dell, tech magnate — $35.6 billion, No. 18. Last year: $32.3 billion.
  • Robert Smith, private equity entrepreneur — $6.2 billion, No. 125. Last year: $5 billion.
  • Bert "Tito" Beveridge, vodka tycoon — $4.6 billion, No. 154. Last year: $4.2 billion.
  • Thai Lee, tech entrepreneur — $3.1 billion, No. 268. Last year: $3 billion.
  • Joe Liemandt, software entrepreneur — $3 billion, No. 278. Last year: $3 billion.
  • John Paul DeJoria, hair care and tequila mogul — $2.7 billion, No. 319. Last year: $3.1 billion.
  • Jim Breyer, venture capitalist — $2.4 billion, No. 353. Last year: $2.5 billion. (Breyer recently relocated from Silicon Valley to Austin).
  • Brian Sheth, private equity entrepreneur — $2.3 billion, No. 359. Last year: $2.2 billion.

Of note, in just one year, Dell's net worth soared by $3.3 billion — more than the entire net worth of fellow Austin billionaire Thai Lee. The chairman and CEO of the Round Rock-based tech company that bears his name is Austin's richest resident.

Elsewhere in Texas:

  • Walmart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke — $8.4 billion, No. 58. Last year: $7.5 billion.
  • Real estate, sports, and entertainment big shot Stan Kroenke — $8.3 billion, No. 59. Last year: $9.7 billion. (The Kroenkes live on a massive ranch near the North Texas town of Vernon.)
  • Investor and former grocery distributor Drayton McLane Jr. of Temple — $2.8 billion, No. 299. Last year: $2.6 billion. McLane is former owner of the Houston Astros.
  • Hearing-aid mogul Bill Austin of Brownsville — $2.2 billion, No. 378. Last year: $2.4 billion.
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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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A new AI-optimized COVID screening device, a free response resource, and more — here's your latest roundup of research news. Image via Getty Images

Researchers across the Houston area are working on COVID-19 innovations every day, and scientists are constantly finding new ways this disease is affecting humankind.

From a COVID breathalyzer to a new collaboration in Houston — here's your latest roundup of local coronavirus research news.

A&M System to collaborate on a COVID-19 breathalyzer

A prototype of the device will be used on the Texas A&M campus. Photo via tamu.edu

Researchers at Texas A&M University System are collaborating on a new device that uses artificial intelligence in a breathalyzer situation to detect whether individuals should be tested for COVID-19. The technology is being developed through a collaboration with Dallas-based company, Worlds Inc., and the U.S. Air Force.

The device is called Worlds Protect and a patient can use a disposable straw to blow into a copper inlet. In less than a minute, test results can be sent to the person's smartphone. Worlds Inc. co-founders Dave Copps and Chris Rohde envision Worlds Protect kiosks outside of highly populated areas to act as a screening process, according to a news release.

"People can walk up and, literally, just breathe into the device," says Rohde, president of Worlds Inc., in the release. "It's completely noninvasive. There's no amount of touching. And you quickly get a result. You get a yay or nay."

The university system has contributed $1 million in the project's development and is assisting Worlds Inc. with engineering and design, prototype building and the mapping of a commercial manufacturing process. According to the release, the plan was to test the prototypes will be tried out this fall on the Texas A&M campus.

"Getting tech innovations to market is one of our sweet spots," says John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System, in the release. "This breakthrough could have lasting impact on global public health."

Baylor College of Medicine researchers to determine cyclosporine’s role in treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients

BCM researchers are looking into the treatment effect of an existing drug on COVID-19 patients. Photo via BCM.edu

The Baylor College of Medicine has launched a randomized clinical trial to look into how the drug cyclosporine effects the prevention of disease progression in pre-ICU hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The drug has been used for about 40 years to prevent rejection of organ transplants and to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

"The rationale is strong because the drug has a good safety profile, is expected to target the body's hyperimmune response to COVID and has been shown to directly inhibit human coronaviruses in the lab," says Dr. Bryan Burt, chief of thoracic surgery in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor, says in a press release.

Burt initiated this trial and BCM is the primary site for the study, with some collaboration with Brigham and Women's. The hypothesis is that the drug will help prevent the cytokine storm that patients with COVID-19 experience that causes their health to decline rapidly, according to the release.

The study, which is funded by Novartis, plans to enroll 75 hospitalized COVID-19 patients at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center who are not in the ICU. There will be an initial evaluation at six months but Burt expects to have the final study results in one year.

Rice launches expert group to help guide pandemic response

A new response team is emerging out of a collaboration led by Rice University. Photo courtesy of Rice

Rice University is collaborating with other Houston institutions to create the Biomedical Expert Panel, supported by Texas Policy Lab, to assist officials in long-term pandemic recovery.

"Not all agencies and decision-makers have an in-house epidemiologist or easy access to leaders in infectious disease, immunology and health communications," says Stephen Spann, chair of the panel and founding dean of the University of Houston College of Medicine, in a news release. "This panel is about equity. We must break out of our knowledge siloes and face this challenge together, with a commitment to inclusivity and openness."

The purpose of the panel is to be available as a free resource to health departments, social service agencies, school districts and other policymakers. The experts will help design efficient public health surveillance plans, advise on increasing testing capacity and access for underserved communities, and more.

"The precise trajectory of the local epidemic is difficult to predict, but we know that COVID-19 will continue to be a long-term challenge," says E. Susan Amirian, an epidemiologist who leads the TPL's health program, in the release. "Although CDC guidelines offer a good foundation, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when managing a crisis of this magnitude across diverse communities with urgent needs."

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