Moncrief Family Values

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Notwithstanding Tex's griping about his brother's work habits, the senior Moncriefs were far from all business.

Monty loved to play with high-profile friends. He brought Hollywood into the oil business, letting buddies Bob Hope and Bing Crosby buy into some deals. His authorized biography tells of the celebrity golf games he played and of his correspondence with the powerful, including Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.

Elizabeth "Liz" Moncrief was an avid shopper and racetrack bettor. In Monty's authorized biography, she tells of stuffing $11,000 cash into her pockets after a successful day at the track. On another occasion, she says, she returned home from a European trip with 44 suitcases loaded with new trinkets. A family friend named Clifford Mooers even composed a poem memorializing her acquisitive exploits. It reads, in part:

Call on the U.S. Treasury
Draw draft on old Fort Knox
Elizabeth's loose in Paris
Spending Monty's rocks....
Of course she sometimes journeys
Back to de la hotel
To cash a sheaf of Travellers Cheques
And wish old Monty well.
For he is busy wiring
Or calling Tex and Dick by phone
To sell the best production
Cut expenses to the bone.
She set an all-time record
She travelled Europe o'er
And saw not one artistic sight
But did not miss a store.

"I wasn't out to set any records in shopping, but maybe I had and I sure wasn't going to be ashamed of it," Liz explained.

Late in life, the elder Moncriefs began dispensing money in other ways, giving more than $8.5 million to Fort Worth and Dallas area hospitals and schools--enough so that Monty's obituary in the Dallas Times Herald bore the headline: "Philanthropist Moncrief Dies at 90." The paper identified him as an oilman only in the story's text.

The family patriarch also clearly tried to pass on some perspective about the value of money. "The only thing my dad ever cautioned me about is not to get greedy," Tex told his father's biographer. "His theory is that there is always room enough in an oil field for everyone to make some money and after one has all the money he needs, why worry about getting more?"

Mike recalls how his grandfather's death in 1986 underlined the division within the Moncrief clan.

"My side of the family was not treated anywhere near as an equal in the sharing of the mementos of my grandparents. It's ugly and it's painful," says Mike of the memory.

In his will, Monty had given the vast majority of his oil and gas properties to his widow. Before her death in 1992, Liz gave her seven grandchildren a gift of $20 million, then sold all her oil and gas properties to them for the same $20 million.

With that 1988 transaction, Mike and his brother believed they each had bought one-seventh of their grandparents' assets--an inheritance for each grandchild now worth (using the Forbes estimate of $200 million) perhaps $28 million.

After the death of his father, Tex continued to manage the oil and gas properties that presumably belonged to his four children (Richard W. "Dickie" Moncrief, now 52; Charles B. "Charlie" Moncrief, now 45; W.A. "Bill" Moncrief III; Tom Oil Moncrief; and three nephews (Mike, Richard Jr., and Lee). Tex explained to the Star-Telegram that he needed no inheritance because the oil and gas properties he had acquired on his own already made him very wealthy.

For several years after Monty's death, Mike and his family did not challenge Tex's management of the family assets, which were still held in the name of his grandparents' estates. Just as Monty had done, Tex sent over monthly bills and checks, which Mike presumed reflected their fair share of the inherited holdings. Just as he had done with Monty, Mike and his brother did what they were asked. The two branches of the family communicated through their respective accountants--Bill Jarvis on Tex's side and Jerry Goodwin on Mike's--who met twice a week for lunch.

About four years ago, Tex's office sent over some documents for Mike and his brother to sign, including paperwork on family oil property in Louisiana. Goodwin remembers that he and Mike did not read the document carefully. Months later, he says, they were surprised to receive a notice from Tex's staff stating that the share of the property that Mike and his siblings owned had been reduced. Previously, Goodwin says, Mike's side of the family had owned half the property; the new document reported that all seven grandchildren shared in it equally--reducing the combined share of Mike and his siblings to 43 percent.

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Miriam Rozen
Contact: Miriam Rozen