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Meet Texas' Six Newest Billionaires

The world's richest man, Carlos Slim, on the cover of Forbes 2012 list.
The world's richest man, Carlos Slim, on the cover of Forbes 2012 list.

Yesterday, Forbes released the billionaires list, its annual parade of the ridiculously, absurdly super-rich. This year, the list stretches to some 1,426 names worth a combined $5.4 trillion.

Texas claims a small if significant portion of that, counting 50 billionaires among its 26 million residents. Many of these -- Alice Walton, Michael Dell, the Bass family Harold Simmons, T. Boone Pickens, Mark Cuban, H. Ross Perot -- are fixtures on the annual list and have become household names, or close to it.

But there are new names on the list as well, as the state continues to create new wealth. In all, six Texans have made made their debut (or, in two cases, their return) on the list over the past two years. The twin takeaways? The natural gas boom has been kind to those with the resources and business acumen to take advantage of it, and Wall Street has fully recovered from its recessionary slump.

The newbies:

Dan and Farris Wilks -- $1.4 billion each: Before Forbes went and announced them as "undercover billionaires," a Google search for Farris would lead to the family's masonry business.

By all indications, it's a thriving business but not how they wound up in the pages of the world's most popular wealth-tracking magazine. That was a result of their natural gas drilling company, Frac Tech, they founded in 2002 before selling a $3.5 billion stake to a Singapore company.

They seem not to have let the wealth go to their head. They still make their home in Cisco, Texas which, though it has a population of just 4,000, is quick to remind you that it boasts the first Hilton Hotel.

Daniel Harrison III -- $1.1 billion: Two decades ago, Harrison and his brother, Bruce Finch Harrison, made Texas Monthly's list of 100 richest Texans. Bruce died in 2004, leaving Dan to creep onto the billionaire's list alone.

The Houstonian's wealth comes largely from his grandfather, who began his career in the oil industry in 1903, "eventually founding an oil, gas, and ranching empire that stretched across the state," according to Texas Monthly. The brothers cashed in in 1990, when they sold a 43,000-acre West Texas ranch to Meridian Oil for $78 million. What vaulted him into Forbes was the $1 billion lease of his South Texas ranch, smack dab in the middle of the Eagle Ford Shale, to Shell Oil in 2010.

James Leininger -- $1.1 billion: It's a toss-up to say whether Leininger is known more for his wealth or his activism in support of conservative causes. His wealth comes from the relatively unsexy medical device market. The Florida-born doctor founded Kinetic Concepts in his San Antonio apartment in 1976, which initially focused on developing specialty hospital beds before morphing into a multinational corporate giant. He sold his share in the company in November 2012, hence his recent appearance in the pages of Forbes.

Leininger has used his wealth to advance conservative causes, giving generously to the campaigns of Rick Perry and George W. Bush and establishing a conservative think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation. More recently, he's become an outspoken advocate for school choice, aka vouchers.

Fayez Sarofim -- $1.4 billion: The stock market crash of 2008 was not particularly kind to Sarofim, stripping him of his billionaire status. But four years later he's back, thanks to his stake in Kinder Morgan, which went public in 2011.

Sarofim, nicknamed "The Sphinx," is the son of an Egyptian cotton magnate. He immigrated to the United States in 1946, went to Harvard Business School, and settled in Houston, where the investment firm he established eventually built a $34 billion portfolio, enabling him to purchase a stake in the NFL's Houston Texans.

Paul Foster -- $1.1 billion: Foster, like Sarofim, is also back on the Forbes list for the first time since 2008. He's Louisiana-bred, Baylor-educated oil and gas man who, according to the magazine, spent summers during his teenage years doing hard labor in the New Mexico oilfields.

He was hired to manage a bankrupt El Paso refinery in 1993. Four years later, he founded Western Refining, the stock price of which has skyrocketed. He serves as vice-chair of the University of Texas System Board of Regents and is the namesake of Texas Tech's medical school.


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