Though she could barely reach the pedals, she was driving her daddy’s pickup truck around the family farm at 6 years old. The free-spirited, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl knew how to milk a cow and harvest wheat, and could walk barefoot 2 miles into the North Texas town of Graham—or, she says in her molasses-thick Southern accent, “Gray-yum.” She liked to cause innocent mischief with her much shyer best friend, Martha Kay Morgan, whom she’d known since they were both 3.
And when she wasn’t at school or taking ballet lessons, she was sitting at the dinner table with her two sisters, her father, and her mother eating her mother’s freshly made fried chicken, rolls, and ice cream. She didn’t understand money—or that her family didn’t have much of it—and she couldn’t read a word due to dyslexia. But in her mind, she was rich and the world was at her feet. “There’s plenty of room in this town for everyone to succeed,” she says about a life lesson she learned when she was young. “My parents never said you can do anything. They said you will.”
Perhaps it was because her father often called her and her sisters “the prettiest girls in town,” or maybe it was because her mother often countered with, “Pretty is as pretty does.” Whatever the reason, Allie Beth Allman (née Allie Beth McMurtry)grew up thinking she could do anything. So she built a Dallas residential real estate empire.
Dallas-based Allie Beth Allman & Associates, which Allman founded in 1985, is known for closing some of the biggest North Texas deals. Her client list includes Dallas Cowboys’ famed coach Tom Landry, team owner Jerry Jones, and Hall of Fame Quarterback Troy Aikman, as well as former President George W. Bush, for whom she traveled to the White House to deliver the keys of his new home in Preston Hollow. She’s sold properties like the 10,000-square-foot Highland Park home of the late Trammell Crow and his wife Margaret Crow, the “Southfork” mansion featured on the CBS-TV show “Dallas,” and Tom Hick’s $100 million, 25-acre, historic estate in North Dallas, the biggest residential property in the city. On top of all that, she gained the backing of one of the most successful investors of all time, Warren Buffet, whose net worth is $73.1 billion, according to Forbes. Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway acquired Allie Beth & Associates for an undisclosed sum in 2015.
At age 77, the executive, mother, and grandmother is still the bubbly, bright-eyed girl from Gray-yum—but in fancier shoes. She strolls into her weekly all-staff meeting as though she’s stepped off a page of Town & Country, wearing a crisp white suit detailed with pearl buttons, a bright blue Hermes silk scarf she received as a gift from a client, and white chunky heels with gold trim. As soon as the session ends, an associate in her 30s whips around in her chair. “Can we meet tomorrow?” she asks Allman. “Yes, that’s fine,” Allman responds. It’s the first of at least three requests for advice Allman would field on her way back to her office. “That’s why we need to get to my office, or we won’t get anything done,” she laughs.
Although she prides herself on helping her younger associates, Allman is still strengthening her own skills, too. “She walks the walk,” says Ellen Sterner Sedeño, a former employee at competitor Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty, who now serves as a consultant for Allie Beth Allman & Associates. “She’s out with clients … understanding the market. She’s a salesperson and doesn’t mind that.”
Those who know her well say Allman is a natural fit for residential real estate. Her Southern charm, strong negotiation skills, and small-town work ethic give her the ability to work tirelessly through some of the toughest deals while flashing a bright smile—something she perfected as a high school beauty queen, college cheerleader, and poster girl for Fort Worth’s Pangburn’s Candy Co. But Allman is more likely to say her career was a series of lucky breaks. Sort of like when she won a mink coat and 40 shares of stock in the National Biscuit Co. in 1960 on TV’s “The Price is Right.” “Every step … I just fell into,” she says. “I didn’t ever dream of this.”
Allman has closed residential deals for former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Texas Rangers baseball player Alex Rodriguez, for whom she was able to buy a house that wasn’t even on the market at the time. Her list of properties has included historic mansions like the $27.5 million Jourdan Way estate of Dallas investment CEO Bobby Haas, Mary Kay Ash’s former Preston Hollow home, and the 10,500-square-foot mansion built by oilman H.L. Hunt. And, her business is booming. Last year, Allie Beth Allman & Associates, which has 325 associates, closed on 2,257 transactions, logging total volume of $1.59 billion.
History of Success
- 1981 Allie Beth Allman lands first-ever home sale with Alicia and Tom Landry.
- 1982 Allman decides to turn her knack for selling into a career and becomes a Realtor with Hank Dickerson & Co.
- 1985 Allman decides to start her own company, with help from her husband Pierce Allman. Thus, Allie Beth Allman & Associates was formed.
- 1995 Aiming to retire, Allman sells company to Henry S. Miller.
- 2004 Allman decides to reopen Allie Beth Allman Associates as an independent company, with the blessing of Miller.
- 2008 Allman travels to the White House to deliver house keys to Laura and George W. Bush.
- 2015 Allie Beth Allman & Associates puts Tom Hicks’ 25-acre estate for sale for $100 million.
- 2015 Berkshire Hathaway, led by CEO Warren Buffet, acquires Allie Beth Allman & Associates.
Allman credits the relationships she’s built as the driving force behind her success. “She builds relationships that endure,” says Pierce Allman, her husband of 53 years, who leads marketing for the company he and his wife now run for Berkshire Hathaway. “We hear from people 10 to 15 years later.” Many of her clients end up becoming close friends. After all, Allman owns one of George W. Bush’s original paintings that he gifted her, regularly spends time with Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and his wife Brill, and often takes Aikman’s two daughters to appointments, sporting events, and activities.
“She’s essentially been like a grandmother to my girls,” Aikman says about Allman, who attended his daughters’ Grandparents Day event at school two years ago. “When Berkshire Hathaway was looking at her firm, she reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to write a letter to Warren Buffet. I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I’d be honored!’ In that letter, I talked about what she’s meant to my family probably more than what she’s meant to the Realtor market.”
Allman aims to make clients’ difficult circumstances seem easy. For Garrett, that meant going on house showings after 9 p.m., when he finished his day with the Cowboys. That’s, of course, after Allman has had a full day herself. “I’m there looking around, and I had a question for Allie Beth,” Garrett recalls about one of the showings. “I’m like ‘Allie Beth! Allie Beth!’ and she’s not responding. So I went down into the kitchen, and she was sleeping on the island, laying on her back,” he laughs. “I said, ‘We’d better wrap this up.’ She had been going all day long.”
But the experience was beyond expectations, Garrett says. And that’s partially how Allman continues to land Dallas A-listers. She’s never been afraid of hard work and rarely considers complexity before jumping in. It’s something she likely inherited, she says. “We watched our parents and our grandparents work hard,” says Jean Strehli, Allman’s older sister. “We had an example to follow. Nothing was going to be given to you.”
Once Allman proves herself, she’s often referred to friends and family. Take, for example, Jones, whom Allman connected with shortly after he bought the Dallas Cowboys. Allman had listed a house that caught Jones’ interest. “He called me on the phone and said he wanted me to get a loan with LIBOR,” she says, referring to the London Interbank Offered Rate, which offers an exchange rate for world banks on short-term loans. “I didn’t know what LIBOR was.”
So, she called a banker she knew from her Sunday school class for help. She also called the seller to secure owner-financing, another one of Jones’ requests. Once she had the packaged deal, she called the ’Boys new owner. “He said, ‘el paso!’ and hung up,” she recalls. Confused by his response, she called back. “I wasn’t going to leave it at that. Turns out ‘el paso’ meant ‘I’ll pass.’ I said I wasn’t finished … and I can make this work.” And she did. Since then, she’s helped other members of the Jones family, thanks to the patriarch’s referrals.
However, Allman’s most surprising call came from the White House in 2008. “They said, ‘This is the White House calling,’ and I said, ‘Who is this? Who’s teasing me?’” she remembers. But it wasn’t a joke. Laura Bush had received a referral from her best friend, Debbie Francis, chairwoman of the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth, where Allman now serves as a board member. Allman jumped at the opportunity with the Bushes, and before she knew it an armored car carrying Laura Bush rolled up to to her office. On the way to the showing, “I was nervous, and [kept thinking], ‘Did I get the directions wrong?’” Allman says, worried about her dyslexia. “We got mud on our feet … and we had to take our shoes off and then climb a ladder to see what was behind the house. They had such a restriction of where they could live because of security.”
Allman sealed the deal on the Bushes’ Daria Place home in December 2008 and delivered the keys to the White House with her husband. The deal led her to work with former Vice President Dick Cheney and his family, as well as a friendship with the Bush family. “He gave me one of his paintings recently,” she says about a cactus George W. Bush painted and gifted her over a dinner at his home. “[It’s] hanging in the hall at my home.”
Sometimes, continued friendships also lead to additional deals. That’s how she ended up selling to the Garretts twice. “We weren’t really looking, and she said, ‘I have a house for you,’” recalls Garrett, who with his wife still often socializes with Allman. “I said, ‘We already have a house. I don’t want two.’ And she said, ‘We’ll sell it’ [then]. Within 48 hours, she sold it.”
It also helps that Allman’s track record with Dallas celebrities is long-standing. Allman’s first celebrity—and first-ever—client dates back to 1981. She attended a gathering of her former sorority, Tri Delta. There, she sat next to Alicia Landry, wife of Tom Landry, the legendary Dallas Cowboys coach. “I didn’t know who Tom Landry was,” Allman remembers. “Honestly, I didn’t care who Tom Landry was.” Allman and Alicia Landry instantly became friends, which later led Landry to ask Allman for help selling her house.
At the time, Allman knew very little about how to handle a deal, she admits, having only had experience at that time in managing some apartment properties. She wasn’t even sure how to fill out contracts, nor was she certified to sell real estate in Texas. But she attracted two offers on the home. It was same day the Cowboys lost a game to the Washington Redskins, which meant a not-so-happy Tom Landry. When Allman handed him the offers, he turned to her for the decision. “He said, ‘Which one do you like?’ And I said, ‘I think I like this [buyer] better.’ He just picked [the contract] up and signed it. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I acted like I did.”
Impressed by Allman, Alicia Landry encouraged her to pursue real estate further. Allman wasn’t convinced. But after another friend asked her for her services, she got certified. “I was just doing it for fun,” Allman says. “It was easy for me.”
Not everything came easy to Allman, though. She started her company in 1985, during an economic recession, and waded though complicated negotiations during a time when lenders weren’t lending. Years after her second go-around—Allman sold the company to Henry S. Miller in 1995 but then chose to re-launch in 2004 with Miller’s blessing—she pulled her company through the Great Recession in the late 2000s. She’s also been fending off Dallas luxury realty companies like Dave Perry-Miller and Associates and Briggs Freeman. In 2016, Briggs Freeman closed on 3,823 transactions and recorded $3.24 billion in total volume. Dave Perry-Miller closed on 3,356 transactions and did $2.1 billion in total volume.
“With her personality, she can really get to the heart of buyers’ and sellers’ issues and can tell them things they don’t want to hear but in ways that endears her to them,” says Frank Purcell, Allie Beth Allman’s first employee, who still works with her. “She’s got sort of a West Texas twang about her … and she’s never lost that ability to win people over.”
But by far, Allman’s biggest life struggle has been with dyslexia, she says. Reading was nearly impossible, but Allman’s source of strength—her father—insisted nothing was wrong. Instead, he took her to reading lessons and pushed her to continue her studies. Allman would never have made it through school if it weren’t for Martha Kay Morgan, her best friend who often read Allman’s homework assignments out loud to her from childhood all the way through college. “She was very smart and very artistic, and I could not draw a stick horse,” Morgan says. “So if we had an art project … she’d have to help. But if we had to do any reading, I’d have to help.”
Impressed by Allman, Alicia Landry encouraged her to pursue real estate further.
Allman majored in journalism at Texas Christian University. She also spent time working with teachers after class either on extra work or even babysitting to stay in good favor with them. “One day [my teacher] said to me, ‘Your accent is your charm. I’m going to give you an A. Please don’t come back,’” she laughs.
Her major led her to her first post-college job—typing traffic logs that kept radio programming on track at WFAA. While there, she had a fortunate run-in with WFAA’s program manager. “I was heading into my office one day, and I noticed this blonde standing in the window,” Pierce Allman says. “I called [the receptionist] and said, ‘Who’s the Miss Texas they hired in traffic?’ I dialed the extension and said, ‘Hi. Would you like to go to the opening of the summer musicals?’ She said, ‘Yes. Who is this?’”
About two years later, the couple was married—with the president of Pangburn’s Candy walking Allie Beth down the aisle in place of her father, who’d died in 1962. Now Allie Beth and Pierce work as a team running Allie Beth Allman & Associates as well as giving time and money to efforts like the Dallas Historical Society and the Dallas Museum of Art. Allie Beth Allman’s skills extend beyond the real estate industry. “Allie Beth is a great problem-solver,” says Francis of the Center for BrainHealth. “She cuts through and gets to the heart of the problem.”
As a top agent running one of the most productive residential real estate firms in Dallas, Allman has already created a legacy. Even so, she rarely sits still. “I finally realized I was successful … when I sold to Warren Buffet,” Allman says. “But now I don’t want to disappoint him, so I’m working harder than I ever have. The thrill is in the deal.”