Young Guns

Chad Willis’ Texas Energy Holdings is no longer a new kid on the oil and gas block.

Chad Willis (center) photography by Shoshana Portnoy

Chad Willis’ company, Texas Energy Holdings, competes against other oil and gas firms that have been in business as long as Willis has been alive.

“It’s really unusual that we’re so successful,” says the 27-year-old president and CEO. Thanks to properties that include Cotton Valley and Barnett Shale, the most active drilling field in North America, TEH has been very successful indeed. Founded in 2003, TEH manages more than $60 million for about 500 investors, finding oil and gas projects for individuals and institutions, as well as pension and hedge funds.

Willis, a native Texan, is a college dropout who cut his teeth at EarthLink when he was 19. His mentor in the energy biz was Lary Knowlton, father of a childhood friend and a “proverbial oil and gas guy.” Knowlton thought that Willis’ technology background would go well with the oil and gas industry. “Oil and gas, most people don’t know, is really technologically driven,” Willis says. In 2002 when dot-com companies started going bankrupt, he took Knowlton’s advice and worked a one-year stint at Mid-Continent Oil and Gas.

He started his own company out of his house when he was only 23. TEH now has 10 employees and big plans for the future, including a non-profit component Willis hopes to have in place by July. The built-in charity will raise money from the individual investors and make a percentage of what the company raises. Also in the works is a 10-year, $50 million, Japanese-based oil and gas fund. TEH is projected to have an estimated $100 million under management by 2008.

“I’ve made very good money since I was 19 and so I don’t think I’m the average 27-year-old,” he says. He’s got that right.

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