Houston oil tycoon Jeffery Hildebrand is the eighth-richest Texan, and the 51st most affluent person in the United States, Forbes says. Photo by Anthony Rathbun

Austin's Elon Musk and Michael Dell are the richest people in Texas, but Houston billionaires are not far behind, according to the newForbes 400, a list of the 400 richest people in the United States for 2023.

Houston oil tycoon JefferyHildebrand is the eighth-richest Texan, and the 51st most affluent person in the United States, Forbes says.

According to Forbes, Hildebrand's net worth in 2023 is estimated at $13.7 billion, which has steadily climbed from his 2022 net worth of $11 billion. Hildebrand, 64, co-founded Hilcorp Energy Company in 1990, and serves as the chairman and CEO after buying out his partner's stake for $500 million. The company has been hard at work expanding its foothold in the oil industry over the last three decades.

"In 2020 Hilcorp finalized the $5.6 billion acquisition of BP's assets in Alaska," Forbes wrote in Hildebrand's profile. "He has built Hilcorp into America's biggest privately owned oil company (by production volumes)."

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

Forbes' list, published October 3, is a definitive ranking of the wealthiest Americans, using interviews, financial data, and documentation provided by billionaires and their companies.

According to the report, America's elite class is now worth $4.5 trillion total, which ties a record previously set in 2021.

Unsurprisingly, Musk ranks No. 1 nationally, with a net worth of $251 billion.

Here's how the rest of Houston's billionaires fared on this year's list:

  • Houston hospitality king and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta ranks 114th nationally with an estimated net worth of $8 billion.
  • Oil and gas chairman Richard Kinder ranks No. 123 nationally with an estimated worth of $7.5 billion.
  • Houston pipeline heirs Dannine Avara, Scott Duncan, Milane Frantz, and Randa Duncan Williams tie for 128th nationally. Each has an estimated net worth of $7.4 billion.
  • Toyota mega-dealer Dan Friedkin ties for 184th nationally with an estimated net worth of $5.7 billion.
  • Houston Texans owner Janice McNair ties for No. 192 nationally with an estimated net worth of $5.6 billion.
  • Local hedge fund honcho John Arnold ranks 345th nationally with an estimated net worth of $3.3 billion.
  • Energy exploration chief exec George Bishop of The Woodlands ranks No. 356 with an estimated net worth of $3.2 billion.
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This article originally ran on CultureMap.
Jeffery and Mindy Hildebrand are noted for their service to employees and community. Photo by Anthony Rathbun

Local billionaires Jeffery Hildebrand and Tilman Fertitta top list of richest in Houston, per Forbes

meet the billionaires

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.

Richard Kinder once again lands on this prestigious list. Photo courtesy of BBVA

11 Houston billionaires join Elon Musk on Forbes' list of the world's richest

mo' money

In the battle of the world’s billionaires, a newly minted Texan comes out on top — and nearly a dozen Houstonians fare quite well.

Forbes magazine’s new ranking of the world’s richest people puts Texas transplant Elon Musk at No. 1, with a net worth of $219 billion. That’s up from $151 billion in 2021, $24.6 billion in 2020, $22.3 billion in 2019, and $19.9 billion in 2018. The CEO of Austin-based vehicle manufacturer Tesla and leader of a host of other businesses, Musk was ranked second on Forbes’ 2021 list. He sat behind Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, whose net worth in 2021 was pegged at $177 million. This year, Forbes estimates Bezos’ net worth is $171 billion.

Here in Houston, 11 locals land on the prestigious list. They are:

  • Oil mogul Jeffery Hildebrand: tied for No. 316, $7.5 billion, up from $2 billion
  • Pipeline magnate Richard Kinder: tied for No. 316, $7.5 billion, up from $7 billion
  • Houston siblings and pipeline heirs Dannine Avara, Scott Duncan, Milane Frantz, and Randa Duncan Williams: each tied for No. 375, $6.6 billion, up from $6 billion
  • Hospitality titan and Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta: tied for No. 471, $5.6 billion, up from $4.6 billion
  • Houston software entrepreneur Robert Brockman: tied for No. 601, $4.7 billion, down from $6 billion
  • Toyota mega-dealer Dan Friedkin: tied for No. 665, $4.3 billion, up from $4.1 billion
  • Houston Texans owner Janice McNair: tied for No. 687, $4.2 billion, up from $4.1 billion
  • Hedge fund honcho John Arnold: tied for No. 913, $3.3 billion, unchanged from last year

Meanwhile, Nearly 30 other Texans appear in this year’s top 1,000. Here, they are grouped by where they live and their global ranking, 2022 net worth, and 2021 net worth.

Austin

  • Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla: No. 1, $219 billion, up from $151 billion
  • Michael Dell, founder, chairman, and CEO of Round Rock-based Dell Technologies: No. 24, $55.1 billion, up from $45.1 billion
  • Venture capitalist Robert Smith: tied for No. 369, $6.7 billion, up from $6 billion
  • Tito’s Vodka baron Bert “Tito” Beveridge:tied for No. 637, $4.5 billion, down from $4.6 billion
  • Tech entrepreneur Thai Lee: tied for No. 709, $4.1 billion, up from $3.2 billion

Dallas

  • Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: tied for No. 185, $10.6 billion, up from $8.9 billion
  • Banking and real estate kingpin Andy Beal: tied for No. 201, $9.9 billion, up from $7.9 billion
  • Oil and real estate titan Ray Lee Hunt: tied for No. 386, $6.5 billion, up from $4.2 billion
  • Money manager Ken Fisher: tied for No. 509, $5.3 billion, down from $5.5 billion
  • Media magnate and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban: tied for No. 601, $4.7 billion, up from $4.4 billion
  • Oil and gas guru Trevor Rees-Jones: tied for No. 637, $4.5 billion, up from $4 billion
  • Hotel and investment titan Robert Rowling: tied for No. 637, $4.5 billion, up from $3.9 billion
  • Oil baron W. Herbert Hunt: tied for No. 665, $4.3 billion, up from $2 billion
  • Margot Birmingham Perot: widow of tech and real estate entrepreneur H. Ross Perot Sr., tied for No. 665, $4.3 billion, up from $4.1 billion
  • Oil and gas tycoon Kelcy Warren: tied for No. 728, $4 billion, up from $3.4 billion
  • Real estate bigwig H. Ross Perot, Jr.: tied for No. 951, $3.2 billion, up from $1.6 billion

Fort Worth

  • Walmart heiress Alice Walton: No. 18, $65.3 billion, up from $61.8 billion
  • Oil and investment guru Robert Bass: tied for No. 536, $5.1 billion, unchanged from last year
  • Private equity magnate David Bonderma: tied for No. 637, $4.5 billion, up from $4.1 billion
  • Investor and oilman Sid Bass: tied for No. 883, $3.4 billion, up from $2.9 billion

Elsewhere in Texas

  • Sports and entertainment mogul Stan Kroenke (Vernon): tied for No. 183, $10.7 billion, up from $8.2 billion
  • Walmart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke (Vernon): tied for No. 227, $9 billion, up from $8.4 billion
  • Oil tycoon Autry Stephens (Midland): tied for No. 552, $5 billion, not previously ranked

“The tumultuous stock market contributed to sharp declines in the fortunes of many of the world’s richest,” Kerry A. Dolan, assistant managing editor of Wealth at Forbes, says of this year’s ranking. “Still, more than 1,000 billionaires got wealthier over the past year. The top 20 richest alone are worth a combined $2 trillion, up from $1.8 trillion in 2021.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Pipeline mogul and Memorial Park benefactor Richard Kinder (pictured with his wife, Nancy) leads the Houston billionaires. Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group

Houston billionaires named to Forbes' list of richest Americans for 2019

Seeing dollar signs

Who's the richest person in Texas? That title once again goes to Walmart heiress Alice Walton, of Fort Worth, according to the newly released Forbes 400 ranking. But seven very wealthy Houstonians also appear on the list of the 400 richest people in the country right now.

The top Houstonian on the list is Houston pipeline mogul Richard Kinder, who is tied with another Walmart heiress, Ann Walton Kroenke, for sixth place in Texas and No. 67 nationally. Forbes estimates they're each worth $7.5 billion.

The other Houston billionaires on the list are:

  • Randa Duncan Williams and her siblings Dannine Avara, Scott Duncan, and Milane Frantz, all of whom live in Houston. Each boasts an estimated net worth of $6.3 billion, tying them for the eighth place in Texas and 100th place nationally.
  • Restaurant mogul and Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta,$4.9 billion. Tied for 15th in Texas and No. 140 in U.S.
  • Toyota titan Dan Friedkin, $4 billion. Tied for No. 21 in Texas. Tied for No. 187 in U.S.
  • Houston Texans co-founder Janice McNair, widow of businessman and Texans co-founder Bob McNair, $4 billion. Tied for No. 21 in Texas and No. 187 in U.S.
  • Energy executive Jeffery Hildebrand, $3.8 billion. No. 23 in Texas. Tied for No. 207 in U.S.
  • Former hedge fund manager John Arnold, $3.3 billion. No. 26 in Texas. No. 261 in U.S.
  • Energy mogul George Bishop of The Woodlands, $2.4 billion. Tied for No. 33 in Texas and No. 355 in U.S.

With an estimated net worth at $51.4 billion, Walton is the 11th richest person in the country (and the richest person in the Lone Star State). Second in line is Austin's Michael Dell, founder, chairman, and CEO of Round Rock-based Dell Technologies, who notches a net worth of $32.3 billion, which puts him at No. 18 on the list of America's billionaires. Holding down third place in Texas and 48th in the U.S. is Dallas banker and real estate titan Andy Beal, with an estimated net worth of $9.8 billion.

This year, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones got muscled out of the No. 4 spot in Texas by Stan Kroenke, whose professional sports holdings include the NFL's Los Angeles Rams. The estimated net worth of Kroenke, who owns a 520,000-acre ranch west of Wichita Falls, is $9.7 billion, compared with $8.6 billion for Jones. That puts Kroenke in 49th place and Jones in 56th place among the richest Americans.

Here are the other Texans who made it onto this year's Forbes 400, in order of ranking:

  • Omni Hotels and Gold's Gym king Robert Rowling of Dallas. $5.5 billion. No. 12 in Texas. Tied for No. 119 in U.S.
  • Oil and gas heir Ray Lee Hunt of Dallas. $5.2 billion No. 13 in Texas. No. 127 in U.S.
  • Venture capital entrepreneur Robert Smith of Austin. $5 billion. No. 14 in Texas. Tied for No. 131 in U.S.
  • Oil heir Robert Bass of Fort Worth. $4.9 billion. Tied for No. 15 in Texas and No. 140 in U.S.
  • Pipeline executive Kelcy Warren of Dallas. $4.3 billion. No. 17 in Texas. Tied for No. 159 in U.S.
  • Vodka tycoon Bert "Tito" Beveridge of Austin. $4.2 billion. Tied for No. 18 in Texas and No. 168 in U.S.
  • Margot Birmingham Perot of Dallas, widow of tech entrepreneur H. Ross Perot. $4.2 billion. Tied for No. 18 in Texas and No. 168 in U.S.
  • Tech entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban of Dallas. $4.1 billion. No. 20 in Texas. Tied for No. 179 in U.S.
  • Private equity giant David Bonderman of Fort Worth. $3.7 billion. Tied for No. 24 in Texas and No. 217 in U.S.
  • Oil and gas chief Trevor Rees-Jones of Dallas. $3.7 billion. Tied for No. 24 in Texas and No. 217 in U.S.
  • Investor and oil heir Sid Bass of Fort Worth. $3.1 billion. Tied for No. 27 in Texas and No. 275 in U.S.
  • John Paul DeJoria of Austin. $3.1 billion. Tied for No. 27 in Texas and No. 275 in U.S.
  • Tech entrepreneur Thai Lee of Austin. $3 billion. Tied for No. 29 in Texas and No. 287 in U.S.
  • Software entrepreneur Joe Liemandt of Austin. $3 billion. Tied for No. 29 in Texas and No. 287 in U.S.
  • Oil heir W. Herbert Hunt of Dallas. $2.6 billion. Tied for No. 31 in Texas and No. 333 in U.S.
  • Investor and former grocery distributor Drayton McLane Jr. of Temple. $2.6 million. Tied for No. 31 in Texas and No. 333 in U.S.
  • Hearing-aid titan Bill Austin of Brownsville. $2.4 billion. Tied for No. 33 in Texas and No. 355 in U.S.
  • Energy entrepreneur and Texas Rangers co-owner Ray Davis of Dallas. $2.3 billion. Tied for No. 35 in Texas and No. 363 in U.S.
  • Big-time banker Gerald Ford of Dallas. $2.3 billion. Tied for No. 35 in Texas and No. 363 in U.S.
  • Oil heir Edward Bass of Fort Worth. $2.2 billion. Tied for No. 37 in Texas and No. 370 in U.S.
  • Oil heir Lee Bass of Fort Worth. $2.2 billion. Tied for No. 37 in Texas and No. 370 in U.S.
  • Real estate developer H. Ross Perot Jr. of Dallas. $2.2 billion. Tied for No. 37 in Texas and No. 370 in U.S.
  • Private equity entrepreneur Brian Sheth of Austin. $2.2 billion. Tied for No. 37 in Texas and No. 370 in U.S.
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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston-based cleantech unicorn named among annual top disruptors

on the rise

Houston-based biotech startup Solugen is making waves among innovative companies.

Solugen appears at No. 36 on CNBC’s annual Disruptor 50 list, which highlights private companies that are “upending the classic definition of disruption.” Privately owned startups founded after January 1, 2009, were eligible for the Disruptor 50 list.

Founded in 2016, Solugen replaces petroleum-based products with plant-derived substitutes through its Bioforge manufacturing platform. For example, it uses engineered enzymes and metal catalysts to convert feedstocks like sugar into chemicals that have traditionally been made from fossil fuels, such as petroleum and natural gas.

Solugen has raised $643 million in funding and now boasts a valuation of $2.2 billion.

“Sparked by a chance medical school poker game conversation in 2016, Solugen evolved from prototype to physical asset in five years, and production hit commercial scale shortly thereafter,” says CNBC.

Solugen co-founders Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt received the Entrepreneur of The Year 2023 National Award, presented by professional services giant EY.

“Solugen is a textbook startup launched by two partners with $10,000 in seed money that is revolutionizing the chemical refining industry. The innovation-driven company is tackling impactful, life-changing issues important to the planet,” Entrepreneur of The Year judges wrote.

In April 2024, Solugen broke ground on a Bioforge biomanufacturing plant in Marshall, Minnesota. The 500,000-square-foot, 34-acre facility arose through a Solugen partnership with ADM. Chicago-based ADM produces agricultural products, commodities, and ingredients. The plant is expected to open in the fall of 2025.

“Solugen’s … technology is a transformative force in sustainable chemical manufacturing,” says Hunt. “The new facility will significantly increase our existing capabilities, enabling us to expand the market share of low-carbon chemistries.”

Houston cleantech company tests ​all-electric CO2-to-fuel production technology

RESULTS ARE IN

Houston-based clean energy company Syzygy Plasmonics has successfully tested all-electric CO2-to-fuel production technology at RTI International’s facility at North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.

Syzygy says the technology can significantly decarbonize transportation by converting two potent greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, into low-carbon jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline.

Equinor Ventures and Sumitomo Corp. of Americas sponsored the pilot project.

“This project showcases our ability to fight climate change by converting harmful greenhouse gases into fuel,” Trevor Best, CEO of Syzygy, says in a news release.

“At scale,” he adds, “we’re talking about significantly reducing and potentially eliminating the carbon intensity of shipping, trucking, and aviation. This is a major step toward quickly and cost effectively cutting emissions from the heavy-duty transport sector.”

At commercial scale, a typical Syzygy plant will consume nearly 200,000 tons of CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking 45,000 cars off the road.

“The results of this demonstration are encouraging and represent an important milestone in our collaboration with Syzygy,” says Sameer Parvathikar, director of renewable energy and energy storage at RTI.

In addition to the CO2-to-fuel demonstration, Syzygy's Ammonia e-Cracking™ technology has completed over 2,000 hours of performance and optimization testing at its plant in Houston. Syzygy is finalizing a site and partners for a commercial CO2-to-fuel plant.

Syzygy is working to decarbonize the chemical industry, responsible for almost 20 percent of industrial CO2 emissions, by using light instead of combustion to drive chemical reactions.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

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.