Jeffery and Mindy Hildebrand are noted for their service to employees and community. Photo by Anthony Rathbun

According to Forbes, half of all of the world’s billionaires are less wealthy than they were in 2022. But that’s not the case for most Houston-area billionaires like oil tycoon Jeffery Hildebrand, who was named the richest man in the city.

The 2023 edition of Forbes’ World’s Billionaires List declared Hildebrand’s net worth at $10.2 billion, placing him as the 171st richest person in the world. His fortune is $2.7 billion higher than his 2022 net worth of $7.5 billion, when he ranked No. 316 on the list.

As CultureMap reported, in 2015, Hildebrand made headlines when he gifted each of his 1,381 employees a $100,000 holiday bonus.

Houston’s favorite hospitality mogul and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is the city’s second-richest man, with his net worth climbing up to $8.1 billion. He ranked No. 256 on Forbes’ list, substantially higher than his No. 471 rank in 2022 when his net worth was $5.6 billion. Fertitta is surely living life to the fullest after hosting Miami rapper Pitbull at his San Luis Salute celebration earlier this year.

Tilman Fertitta Shut Up and Listen book laughing

Tilman Fertitta is sitting pretty at No. 2. Photo by J. Thomas Ford

Other Houston-area billionaires that made Forbes 2023 world’s richest list are:

  • Pipeline magnate Richard Kinder: tied for No. 317, $7.2 billion, down from $7.5 billion
  • Houston siblings and pipeline heirs Dannine Avara, Scott Duncan, Milane Frantz, and Randa Duncan Williams: all tied for No. 352, $6.8 billion, up from $6.6 billion
  • Toyota mega-dealer Dan Friedkin: tied for No. 466, $5.5 billion, up from $4.3 billion
  • Houston Texans owner Janice McNair: tied for No. 534, $5 billion, up from $4.2 billion
  • Hedge fund honcho John Arnold: tied for No. 878, $3.3 billion, unchanged since 2018
  • Energy exploration chief exec George Bishop: tied for No. 982, $3 billion, up from $2.7 billion
New to the 2023 report is Kamal Ghaffarian, the co-founder and executive chairman of Houston's Axiom Space, with a net worth of $2.1 billion. Though his LinkedIn notes that he is based in Maryland, reports add that he resides in Florida. His Forbes rank is No. 1434.An honorable mention (and billionaire newbie) is Amy Adams Strunk, the controlling owner of the Tennessee Titans and daughter of Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams. She has a residence in Waller (about 40 miles northwest of Houston) and her net worth is $1.7 billion — making her No. 1725 on the list.One name missing from Forbes 2023 report is software entrepreneur Robert Brockman, who passed away last August. Brockman fell from grace after he was charged in the largest tax fraud case in U.S. history in 2020. Forbes listed his 2022 net worth at $4.7 billion. He is survived by his wife, son, and two grandchildren.Elsewhere in Texas, Elon Musk reigns as the richest man in the state and in its capital city of Austin with a net worth of $180 billion. The Tesla and Space-X founder is the second richest person in the world, wedging his way between No. 1 Bernard Arnault of France (overseer of the LVMH empire of 75 fashion and cosmetics brands, including Louis Vuitton and Sephora), with a net worth of $211 billion; and No. 3 Jeff Bezos, the American Amazon founder, worth $114 billion.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones'$13.3 billion net worth won him the title of Dallas' richest person, and the 12th richest sports owner on Forbes' "World's Richest Sports Owners 2023." His net worth is up from $10.6 billion last year.

The Fort Worth-based Walmart family heiress Alice Walton earned a spot on Forbes’ list as the third richest woman in the world. Her fortune is pegged at $56.7 billion, down slightly from $65.3 billion last year.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The Walton family fortune grew astoundingly in the past year — to the tune of $23 billion. Photo via Getty Images

Texas billionaire and family reign as the world’s richest clan

RETAIL RICHES

It's hardly a surprise that America's Walton family, including Fort Worth billionaire Alice Walton, remains the world's richest family. What's truly stunning is how much their wealth has grown in the past year — by more than $23 billion.

In once again crowning the Waltons the world's richest family, the Bloomberg news service recently reported that their collective fortune had risen by $23 billion in the past year due to the climbing stock price of the Walmart retail chain. Sam Walton opened the first Walmart store in 1962.

Descendants of Sam and his brother, Bud, control more than 1.3 billion shares of Walmart stock either directly or through family trusts, Bloomberg says. Even though the Waltons have liquidated $6 billion in Walmart stock this year, they're now worth more in 2021 than they were in 2020.

As of mid-September, the Waltons were worth $238.2 billion, according to Bloomberg. That's almost $100 billion above the next richest family in the world, the Mars family of candy and pet care fame. Last year, Bloomberg pegged the Waltons' fortune at $215 billion.

To put the Waltons' one-year, $23 billion bump in wealth into perspective, Bloomberg estimates the net worth of Walmart heir Lukas Walton at $22 billion.

Alice Walton ranks as the second richest person in Texas (No. 1 is Elon Musk, at more than $200 billion), but she's not the richest Walmart heir. As of September 27, Bloomberg estimated Walton's net worth at $61.9 billion, making her the 19th richest person in the world. Ahead of her are brothers Jim ($63.7 billion, No. 17 worldwide) and Rob ($63.3 billion, No. 18 worldwide).

Not everyone is impressed with the Waltons' mountain of money. In February, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, branded the Waltons "the poster child for greed," based on the retailer's low starting wage. Walmart recently raised its minimum pay for hourly workers from $11 to $12.

"This is a family that is incredibly wealthy," Sanders said of the Waltons before the wage increase took effect.

"One of their owners spend[s] zillions of dollars on antique cars. They've got mansions. They have all kinds of art collections," the senator told CNN. "But somehow or another they can't pay their starting wage at more than 11 bucks an hour."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

big impact

Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.