8 of Texas’ wealthiest saw their worth rise by more than $1 billion since pandemic began

Tribune Content Agency

DALLAS — Eight Texas billionaires have increased their worth by more than $1 billion since the pandemic began to impact the U.S. in March, based on an analysis of Forbes data.

The wealth owned by Texas’ richest grew by more than 10% from March 18-June 17, according to Forbes’ real-time billionaires data.

The Forbes data was publicized by the nonprofit Americans for Tax Fairness and progressive think tank Institute for Policy Studies, and analyzed by The Dallas Morning News. The data excludes three Texas billionaires — grocery store magnate Charles Butt, home builder Donald Horton and real estate investor John Goff — because their March net worth wasn’t available.

The list includes 56 billionaires in Texas who added on average $429 million to their worth since the pandemic began. In total, the 56 people have made $24 billion in three months time — or nearly twice the historic amount of unemployment benefits paid out by the state to jobless Texans since lockdowns began in March.

Texas billionaires’ wealth grew the fourth most collectively compared to other states. Billionaires in Texas trailed California, New York and Washington, which are also home to more ultra-wealthy individuals than the Lone Star State. But Texas has oil and shale gas.

Lockdowns enacted across the U.S. in March, which drove demand for oil down, combined with price wars, had a devastating effect on the oil and gas industry at the start of the pandemic. By May, researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas were warning that “economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has sent the Texas economy into a tailspin.” West Texas Intermediate prices fell as low as $11.57 on April 21. WTI closed Monday at $40.60.

For the last month, oil prices have gradually recovered but rig counts have declined and bankruptcy threatens many in the industry. Almost a third of U.S. shale producers are technically insolvent if crude drops below $35 a barrel, according to Deloitte, highlighting the industry’s acute financial strain.

Despite this, Texas’ billionaires who amassed their fortunes in oil and gas saw the largest growth in wealth. Wealthy oil and gas moguls also far outnumber the billionaires invested in other industries in Texas.

Dell founder Michael Dell’s wealth grew 30% in the three months since the pandemic began, leading all other billionaires in Texas. His worth has increased nearly $7.2 billion in that timespan.

Dell is followed by the heirs to Houston pipeline company Enterprise Products Partners L.P. co-founder Dan Duncan’s fortune. Daughters Randa Duncan Williams, Dannine Avara, Milane Frantz and son Scott Duncan’s worth increased more than $1.5 billion combined over three months.

Pipeline magnate Kelcy Warren has made more than $1 billion, while Ray Hunt of Dallas, Sid and Robert Bass of Fort Worth and others have have pulled in hundreds of millions.

Following the Duncan family is Dallas’ Robert Rowling, founder of TRT Holdings, which owns Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym, who has increased his net worth by nearly $1.4 billion.

Gold’s Gym has filed for bankruptcy since the pandemic began, shuttering company-owned locations and furloughing about 98% of its 4,000 workers, including many of the 90 employees at its Dallas headquarters. And with travel demand down and in-person events all but non-existent, the hotel industry has taken a massive hit in the last several months.

Bert “Tito” Beveridge, the 58-year-old founder of Tito’s Vodka, the bestselling spirit in the U.S., saw his worth increase by $951 million. Liquor sales were deemed an “essential business” nationwide when lockdowns went into effect in March.

Americans for Tax Fairness executive director Frank Clemente said the pandemic era gains by wealthy Texans shows hour “fundamentally flawed our economic system is.”

“In three months, about 600 billionaires increased their wealth by far more than the nation’s governors say their states need in fiscal assistance to keep delivering services to 330 million residents,” Clemente said. “Their wealth increased twice as much as the federal government paid out in one-time checks to more than 150 million Americans.

“If this pandemic reveals anything, it’s how unequal our society has become and how drastically it must change,” he said.


©2020 The Dallas Morning News

Visit The Dallas Morning News at www.dallasnews.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.