family fortune

These 4 Houstonians cash in on Forbes' list of richest American families

Randa Williams Duncan has the highest profile among Houston's richest family. Photo courtesy of Texas Monthly

While 2020 has been a nightmare financially for many, some locals have cashed in. One example is Houston's Duncan family, with a net worth of $22 billion, who once again appear on the annual Forbes ranking of America's richest families. (The Duncans come in at No. 11 on the Forbeslist.)

The four children of pipeline mogul Dan Duncan — Randa Duncan Williams, Milane Frantz, Dannine Duncan Avara, and Scott Duncan — inherited a $10 billion estate from their father when he died in 2010. The net worth of each heir exceeds $5 billion.

Randa enjoys the highest profile among the four Duncan siblings. She is chairwoman of Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners, the pipeline giant founded by her father, and owns Austin-based Texas Monthly magazine.

Elsewhere in Texas, The Walton family once again reigns as the richest family in the U.S., according Forbes. Their net worth: $247 billion. In its 2020 budget year, Walmart racked up revenue of $524 billion — and the company continues to rack up riches for heirs of the retail giant's founders.

That $247 billion sum represents close to half of Walmart's annual revenue and is equivalent to the size of Chile's economy.

The net worth of Fort Worth billionaire Alice Walton, the only daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, accounts for a little over one-fourth of the family fortune. Forbes estimates she's worth about $68 billion, making her the richest resident of Texas and the richest Walton heir. If Alice Walton were a family unto herself, she'd rank as the fourth wealthiest clan in the country.

Descendants of Sam Walton and brother Bud Walton own about half of Walmart's stock. Forbes says the stock generates more than $700 million in annual dividend income for the family.

Alice Walton isn't the only Texan who's a member of the Walton dynasty. Ann Walton Kroenke, one of the two daughters of Bud Walton, lives on a 535,000-acre ranch about 50 miles northwest of Wichita Falls. She is worth about $9.1 billion and is married to sports and entertainment titan Stan Kroenke, who's worth an estimated $8.3 billion.

While all of the Waltons don't live in the Lone Star State, members of four of the country's other wealthiest families do.

At No. 15 among the country's wealthiest families is the Butt family, with a net worth of $17.8 billion. Charles Butt is chairman and CEO of the H-E-B grocery chain, based in San Antonio and parent company of Dallas-based Central Market. Butt, grandson of H-E-B founder Florence Butt, and three relatives — sister Mary Butt Crook and two nephews — own H-E-B. The company's annual sales are around $28 billion.

The Hunt family, whose members are descendants of oil wildcatter H.L. Hunt, sit at No. 18 on the Forbes list with a net worth of $15.5 billion. The richest among them are billionaires Ray Lee Hunt and W. Herbert Hunt, both of Dallas.

Rounding out the Texas contingent on the Forbes list are members of Fort Worth's Bass family. The Basses hold down the No. 30 spot with a net worth of $10.8 billion. The four Bass brothers — Sid, Edward, Robert, and Lee — each inherited $2.8 billion from their oil tycoon uncle Sid Richardson after his death in 1959. Robert is the wealthiest of the foursome.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Kelly Avant, investment associate at Houston-based Mercury Fund, shares how and why she made her way into the venture capital arena. Photo courtesy of Mercury

Kelly Avant didn't exactly pave a linear career path for herself. After majoring in gender studies, volunteering in the Peace Corps, and even attending law school — she identified a way to make a bigger impact: venture capital.

"VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems," Avant tells InnovationMap.

Avant joined the Mercury Fund team last year as an MBA associate before joining full time as investment associate. Now, after completing her MBA from Rice University this month, Avant tells InnovationMap why she's excited about this new career in investment in a Q&A.

InnovationMap: From law school and the peace corps, what drew you to start a career in the VC world?

Kelly Avant: I graduated from Rice University with an MBA, starting scouting for an investment firm in my first year, and by the summer after my first year I was essentially working full-time interning with Mercury. But, I like to tell people about my undergraduate degree in gender studies and rhetoric from a little ski college in Colorado. If you meet someone else in venture capital with a degree in gender studies, please connect us, but I think I might be the only one. I’ll spare you what I used to think — and say — about business students, but I have really come full circle.

I always thought I would work in a nonprofit space, but after serving in Cambodia with the Peace Corps, working for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and briefly attending Emory Law School with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.I found that time and time again the root of the problem was a lack of resources. The world’s problems were not going to be solved with my idealism alone.

The problem with operating as a nonprofit in a capitalism is you basically always pandering to the interests of the donors. The NFL was a key sponsor of The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The United States has a complicated, to put it lightly, relationship with Cambodia and Vietnam. It became pretty clear that the donor/nonprofit relationship was oftentimes putting the wrong party in the driver’s seat. I was, and still am, very interested in alternative financing for nonprofits. I became convinced that the most exciting businesses were building solutions to the world’s problems while also turning a profit, which allows them to survive to have a sustainable positive impact.

VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems.

IM: What are some companies you’re excited about?

KA: There are a couple super interesting founders I’ve met directly engaging with . To name a few: CiviTech, DonateStock, and Polco.

I’m very proud to work on mercury investments like Houston’s own, Topl, which has built an extremely lightweight and energy efficient Blockchain that enables tracking of ethical supply chains from the initial interaction.
I’m also excited about mercury’s investment in Zirtue, which enables relationship based peer to peer lending to solve the massive problem of predatory payday loans.

We have so many awesome founders in our portfolio. The best part about working in VC is meeting passionate innovators every day. I get excited to go to work everyday and help them to build better solutions.

IM: Why are you so passionate about bringing diversity and inclusion into Mercury?

KA: I love working with exciting, highly capable, super smart people. That category includes so many people who have been historically excluded. As an investment team member at Mercury, I do have a voice, and I have an obligation to use that voice to speak highly of the best people in rooms of influence.

IM: With your new role, what are you most focused on?

KA: In my new role, I am identifying and researching high potential investments. We’re building out a Mercury educational series to lift the veil of VC. We want to facilitate a series that gives all founders the basic skills to pass VC due diligence and have the opportunity to build the next innovative companies. My goal is ultimately to produce the best returns possible for our investors, and we can’t accomplish that goal unless we’re building out resources to meet the best founders and help them grow.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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