Culture / Newsy

Houston Billionaire Tilman Fertitta Gets the Ultimate Spotlight in Forbes 400 Cover Moment

It's Still Good to be Rich

BY // 10.12.21

It’s tough being a billionaire these days with all the haters, the trolls and the looming specter of possible astronomical tax increases. Even self-made billionaires who are living the American dream catch the heat for being overprivileged. Let the proletariats cry foul. Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta makes no apologies for his climb from relatively humble beginnings to among America’s very richest.

His ascent from college dropout selling vitamins to owner of the Houston Rockets, two super yachts (both named Boardwalk), and his Landry’s Inc. hospitality empire has garnered the shrewd businessman myriad accolades along with his share of critics.

Fertitta’s latest media splash is as a headliner in Forbes magazine’s 40th annual Forbes 400 issue with the article delivering an intriguing chronology of the Galveston native’s financial growth and his current challenges.

His entertainment behemoth and the Houston Rockets (valued by Forbes at $2.5 billion) find Fertitta with an estimated wealth of $6.2 billion, placing him at No. 158 among the Forbes 400 of the world’s richest individuals. (See below for the rest of the Houstonians who also earned spots on the coveted 2021 list.)

“How Clever Deals Made Houston Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta Billions Richer During the Pandemic” is the seductive headline of the Forbes piece. Indeed, the article provides not only the fascinating journey of the 64-year-old’s financial wizardry but also relates his  money savvy during the pandemic as well as the anticipated completion of his fifth SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) in December.

What will come as a surprise to many not in the Fertitta inner circle is the following paragraph.

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“But for now, life is good. Fertitta intends to spend 30 nights a year on Boardwalk. This summer he had his ex-wife, Paige, and their four kids there for a week. Their 2017 split was amicable. He has been married for two years to Lauren Ware, formerly a litigation counsel for Landry’s.”

Family friends have long understood that despite the divorce the extended Fertitta family remains strong and involved with genial ties between the exes. Little was ever made of the quiet divorce and Fertitta’s later marriage.

Houston’s Biggest Billionaires

Kinder Morgan founder Rich Kinder holds his long-standing lead as the city’s richest with a net worth listed $7.1 billion. Fertitta ranks second with net worth of $6.3 billion.

Rich and Nancy Kinder_Photo by Karen Sachar courtesy of Kinder Foundation
Rich & Nancy Kinder (Photo by Karen Sachar, courtesy of the Kinder Foundation)

The heirs of oilman Dan Duncan — Dannine Avara, Milane Frantz and Scott Duncan — each rank third in Texas or 161 nationally with net worths of $6.2 billion each.

Newcomer to the Forbes 400 elite is Houstonian Robert Brockman with a net worth of $4.7 billion. He ranks fourth in Texas and 229 nationally. Oilman Jeff Hildebrand with a net worth of $4.6 billion was named the fifth wealthiest Houstonian, ranking 240th nationally. Toyota mogul Dan Friedkin, net worth $4.4 billion, closely followed Hildebrand in position 253.  Houston Texans owner Janice McNair, net worth of $4.2 billion, ranks 269 on the Forbes list. Hedge fund founder and philanthropist John Arnold, net worth $3.3 billion, ranks number 358th nationally.

With personal wealth of the Forbes 400  growing by quantum leaps, their collective fortunes climbing 40 percent, the bar for entry into this rarified fraternity rose to $2.9 billion.

Changes at The Top

Since relocating Tesla and Space X to Texas, Elon Musk has become the Lone Star state’s richest mogul with an estimated wealth of $190.5 billion, making him the second richest American behind Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. With his arrival, Walmart heiress Alice Walton, previously the richest person Texas and remaining the richest woman in America, was bumped to No. 2 in Texas. Her net worth is listed at $67.9 billion.

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