There are many ways to become a billionaire: you can run a hedge fund, launch a tech startup, be a real estate developer and even win the genetic lottery and inherit your fortune. Basically, if you choose the right career and work very very hard, you, too, can become one of the world's wealthiest people. That's what these men did. They made their fortunes in black gold, Texas tea, or, in other words, the oil and gas industry. Of the 565 billionaires in the United States, more than a dozen of them made their money in oil and gas. Three of the 100 richest Americans are from the oil and gas industry. Many of the oil and gas billionaires live in Houston, while in Dallas, 10 of the city's 22 billionaires made their fortunes in the oil industry. The average net worth of these Texas oil and gas billionaires is $4.1 billion.
The Koch brothers – Charles and David – are two of the wealthiest people in the U.S. each are worth $40 billion. The Koch brothers are co-owners of Koch Industries. Originally engaged solely in oil refining and chemicals, Koch Industries now also deals in process and pollution control equipment and technologies; polymers and fibers; minerals; fertilizers; commodity trading and services; forest and consumer products; and ranching.
Harold Hamm of Continental Resources has a net worth of $13.7 billion. Hamm made headlines in 2014 when he divorced his wife and paid her a $1 billion settlement. Hamm built his net worth as a key player in Hiland Partners and Hiland Holdings as well as the Oil-exploration company, Continental Resources. This self-made billionaire is the richest person in Oklahoma and one of the richest people in America.
Richard Kinder of Kinder Morgan has seen his net worth rise more than 30% over the past year to $11 billion. He is just one of the more than dozen oil and gas billionaires from Texas. Kinder is the former president and COO of Enron. He left Enron to launch his own energy company with former classmate, William V. Morgan, and they subsequently purchased Enron Liquids Pipeline for $40 million, then merged it with KN Energy. Their company Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, now owns the largest natural gas pipeline network in the United States.
Kelcy Warren also made the list of the country's wealthiest, with a net worth of $6.4 billion. The Texas billionaire is the co-founder and CEO of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company is building the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, North Dakota. He and partner Ray Davis launched Energy Transfer Partners in 1995 by buying a bankrupt pipeline company. By 2002, the company had $50 million in assets.
Ray Lee Hunt is the chairman of Hunt Consolidated, which has interests in oil, real estate, utilities and investment. Their oil division, Hunt Oil, is one of the biggest private energy companies in the United States. He has a net worth of $6.1 billion. Hunt inherited his father's fortune and has continued to grow the family business. Hunt Consolidated owns massive tracts of land in the south, as well as multiple hotels and commercial complexes. Hunt Oil, their energy arm, has made massive deals in Yemen and other parts of the Middle East.
Pipeline mogul Dan Duncan, Jr. of Enterprise Pipeline Partners and his three siblings made the list of the wealthiest Americans with a net worth of $5.7 billion. Dan Duncan, Sr. co-founded Enterprise Products Company in 1968. The company went public in 1988, and by 2010, Enterprise was in charge of almost 50,000 miles of pipeline. Dan passed away in 2010 and left his massive wealth to his four children.
Hilcorp Energy's Jeffrey Hildebrand not only made the list of wealthiest Americans with a net worth of $5.7 billion, his company was also named one of the 50 best places to work—and we can see why. In 2015, Hildebrand gave every single one of his 1,399 employees a bonus of $100,000. To be fair, the bonuses were tied to company goals. Receiving a $100,000 check was life-changing for many of the company's employees. Some used it to pay their kids' college tuition, others to pay off debt, and still others to buy a home.
George Bishop, CEO of GeoSouther an oil producing company, has a net worth of $3 billion. In November 2013 George received a huge payday after Devon Energy decided to give $6 billion in cash for the 82,000 acres of Eagle Ford shale oil fields operated by his little-known, low-profile company, GeoSouthern Energy.
John Arnold of Centaurus Energy Advisors is another oil and gas billionaire from Texas. His net worth of $2.9 billion was made in energy trading. John Arnold began his career as a trader for Enron, and was so successful, that when Enron collapsed in 2002 he was able to use his earnings to create his own energy hedge fund, Centaurus Advisors, LLC.