|HIGH ROLLER: Jack Pratt says research shows more than 80 percent of Texans want to vote on allowing casinos.
photography by Dan Sellers
#52 JACK PRATT
[ THE CASINO DREAMER ]
The 80-year-old former CEO of Hollywood Casinos is still working hard to bring gambling to Texas.
Retirement hasn’t dampened Jack Pratt’s enthusiasm for his cause: legalizing casinos in Texas. In a 44-minute interview, he is asked exactly four questions, two of which are “Is now a good time to talk?” and “Do you mind if a photographer contacts you?” The rest of the conversation is a Jack Pratt soliloquy on the merits of the casino bill that the state Legislature failed to pass this term. He wants 12 casino resorts throughout the state, creating 400,000 new jobs, generating more than $3 billion in state revenue, with $1 billion of that set aside to help eligible students attend college.
“I thought I was going to retire three years ago,” says Pratt, who as founding chairman of the Texas Gaming Association receives no salary. “But then the gaming industry asked me to head their efforts to get this bill passed. They wanted me to help educate lawmakers and the public. Because we want this put to a vote so that voters can show folks they’re ready for upscale resort casinos. And they know I’m a walking encyclopedia of the industry.”
True and somewhat ironic, given that Pratt is a 50-year resident of Texas, a state that has never legalized gambling. Born in Missouri, Pratt and his two brothers worked their way into financial success in the three service industries that now make up the non-gambling portion of casino resorts: food (Dairy Queens), retail shopping (strip malls), and hotels (Holiday Inns). In the ’70s, he purchased the legendary Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas from Howard Hughes and then opened the Sands in Atlantic City, which became his early success story. In 1990 he began Hollywood Casino Corp. in Dallas, which he recently sold (amid nasty accusations, lawsuits, and counter-suits) before taking on his casinos-in-Texas cause full time.
Pratt is not discouraged by his latest defeat. He’s been trying to get similar bills passed since at least the early ’90s. “Public opinion has shifted a great deal,” he says. “Everyone who looks honestly at the numbers knows this is best for Texas. So we’ll be back in ’09. I can promise you.”
#11 Fred Baron
[ THE DEMOCRATIC MONEY MAN ]
He and his wife define “power couple” in Dallas. Now the lawyer looks to win the White House for John Edwards.
When they moved into their sprawling home on Deloache Avenue in January 2000, Fred Baron and wife Lisa Blue knew that architect Robert A.M. Stern had fulfilled his paramount task: “to make this a public place.” Good thing, because the Baron House gets quite a workout. Almost every week, the first floor (the second and third are for family) and grounds are used to host a charity event, scheduled by the nonprofit Baron & Blue Foundation, which is dedicated to eliminating homelessness, especially for children, and to improving low-cost housing in the Dallas area. Each December, though, the place goes to a whole ’nuther use—an outdoor tent party for 1,800 or so—and for one evening becomes the best music venue in town, featuring everyone from the Doobie Brothers to the Beach Boys.
The serious side of the couple comes from other public places: the courtroom and the campaign trail. Although both famously tough lawyers have left the firm he founded, Baron & Budd, this summer they launched their own new dream team, Baron and Blue. In 2005, Baron, who made his bones in asbestos and environmental injury litigation, founded and mostly funded the Texas Democratic Trust, which in turn fueled the nearly broke party’s 2006 resurgence—especially felt in Dallas County. This year, he’s the fundraising muscle for the John Edwards presidential campaign, which is why Baron is temporarily based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The law became a lucrative profession for him, but public service is clearly Baron’s calling, reaching back to his childhood in Illinois.
“I can remember standing on a street corner for three hours to get a firsthand view of John Kennedy when he came through Rock Island to campaign in October of 1960,” he says. “I’ve always been interested in American politics. And when I moved to Texas at the ripe old age of 15, and where I’ve lived for 45 years now, I’ve always been very interested in the way government works to deal with the problems of people who need support.”
On the other hand, it’s a sacrifice. Last October, Alessandra Rose, their first child after 26 years of marriage, was born. You can bet that every weekend he’s on a plane back to Dallas to see them. —ROD DAVIS
|SOCCER DAD: Hunt’s relatively modest estate (10,000 square feet) sits near the Dallas Country Club. photography by Elizabeth Lavin|
#42 Clark Hunt
[ THE OTHER SPORTS OWNER IN TOWN ]
The son of a legend gracefully continues his father’s work.
H.L. Hunt made his fortune in oil, but his son Lamar, whose story has grown smooth from retelling, wanted to try something different. He started a sports league (the American Football League, among others), coined a phrase (“Super Bowl”), and won championships (with the Kansas City Chiefs, which he owned, and the Chicago Bulls, which he co-owned).
Clark Hunt, on the other hand, is content to be his father’s son. He found his life’s work by following closely in Lamar’s footsteps. Clark adored his father, a privileged man who bore no pretense, a man who would not hand his children anything they didn’t earn. At 7, a 300-pound urn fell on Clark’s right foot. Six month later, Lamar enlisted his son in an 8-mile race around White Rock Lake and ran alongside him to prove the injury would not curb Clark’s ambitions, as long as Clark didn’t allow it to. By his senior year of high school, Clark was the captain of the football, soccer, and track teams. He graduated from SMU as co-valedictorian and a four-year letterman in soccer.
Since Lamar’s death in December, Clark has demonstrated the intelligence, not to say humility, to stay out of the day-to-day operations of the Chiefs, much as his father, the anti-Jerry Jones, did. He has inherited other interests, too—FC Dallas and Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer chief among them, MLS being a league Clark helped found, just as Lamar once founded a league in a fledgling sport.
But Clark, 42, is not in every way his father. For a few years earlier this decade, he lived in the Virgin Islands. And he’s expressed an interest in expanding the Hunt Sports Group empire to Europe. “I’m keeping an eye on the Premier League,” he recently told the Times of London. His father’s vision gone global. —PAUL KIX
#1 TOM HICKS
[ THE COMEBACK KID ]
The tall Texan enjoys his second act and—blimey!—it’s a big one.
|HUGE TRACTS OF LAND: Hicks’ home (bottom left) is on 25 acres just off Walnut Hill Lane. The fountain in the foreground (bottom right) belongs to Hicks’ neighbor, Gene Phillips (No. 6). photography by David Woo|
Tom Hicks did not have a great year in 2002. His Stars missed the playoffs, costing him millions in lost revenue. The Rangers payroll was bloated and attendance was down. His private equity firm—Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst—was throwing hundreds of millions at companies that went bankrupt. In July, he appeared in a doctored photo on the cover D Magazine with his pockets turned inside out, beside the headline “Is Tom Hicks Going Broke?” He cancelled his two subscriptions and, in September, saying his “life needed more balance,” put the Stars up for sale.
The next two years were worse. Hit by a viral infection, he went nearly deaf. A stonemasonry firm working on a reported $50 million to $70 million expansion of his home filed suit against him for $461,561 it claimed it was owed. He failed to sell the Stars. And he retired from Hicks Muse earlier than planned. At that point, anyone could be forgiven for guessing at the true nature of his “retirement” and whether he would ever again play the game at the highest level—much less pay for his remodel.
But now Hicks, 61, is once again making international headlines for a high-profile investment. Earlier this year, he and partner George Gillett Jr. secured a $916 million leveraged purchase of the Liverpool Football Club. And with his newly formed Hicks Holdings, he has made significant plays in an electronics firm in China, a pet food company in Argentina, and a telecom start-up here at home—to name a few.
Here in town, the Rangers are struggling but payroll has been trimmed. The Stars are operating under a new owner-friendly collective bargaining agreement. His Frisco RoughRiders and Mesquite Championship Rodeo are doing well. Victory Park is finally paying dividends, and his development at Glorypark in Arlington will take advantage of the 2011 Super Bowl.
Hicks outraged English soccer fans by comparing Liverpool, one of the most storied sports franchises on the planet, to Weetabix, an English cereal maker he’d bought previously. “It was just business,” he told the Guardian. “It is the same for Liverpool. Revenues come in from whatever source and go out to whatever source. If there is money left over, it is profit.”
For now, there does indeed seem to be money left over. Bully for him. —TIM ROGERS
|CHEM POSSIBLE: Bishop is the past chairman of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. Seriously.
photography by Dan Sellers
#91 MICHAEL BISHOP
[ THE CHEMIST ]
The former botanist extracts beauty from nature and continues to innovate in the cosmetics industry.
When chemist Michael Bishop founded Active Organics in 1981, he was the leading proponent of products no one cared about: botanical extracts and organically based cosmetics. Less than a decade later, the face of the industry turned and embraced the natural in natural beauty, and Active Organics became the global leader in supplying botanical extracts. Today, Bishop’s Lewisville-based company counts among its clients Estee Lauder, Neutrogena, Avon, and Mary Kay.
“When I started Active Organics, I had 100 percent of the market share, which was nothing. Today I’ve lost market share but gained dollars,” Bishop says. Reports put Active Organics’ annual sales between $10 million and $20 million.
“I had faith people would look to natural alternatives in hair and skin care products.” Bishop graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with degrees in chemistry and biology. His first job was working as a chemist in exploratory development for Max Factor, where he came up with a line of beauty products.
In the late 1970s, he realized that cosmetics makers needed a single, reliable, scientific source of botanical extracts that could be proven effective. He approached Sharon Fjordbak, then a Dallas attorney, who helped him put together a business plan to launch Active Organics. (Fjordbak serves as the company’s CEO to this day.)
Bishop is still very active in his company’s quest to find new and better natural beauty aids and age fighters, working regularly from Active Organics’ 120,000-square-foot industrial plant in Lewisville, which also houses the firm’s research and development lab, an analytical lab, and manufacturing space. Recently, Active Organics launched its own skin care line, Actifirm, sold directly to physicians and based on an enzyme derived from mushrooms. The search for beauty never ends. —TREY GARRISON
|MAX PAD: Robert Haas’ home (foreground) is encroached upon by the mammoth estate of eyeglass magnate H. Doug Barnes (No. 88).
photography by David Woo
#35 Robert Haas
[ THE NATURALIST ]
How a trip to Africa turned a financier into a celebrated wildlife photographer.
In 1993, Robert Haas sat down with a partner at Goldman Sachs for a dinner that would change his life. At that point, Haas already was a very wealthy man. The Harvard Law grad had come to Dallas from Cleveland a decade earlier to start a buyout firm with Tom Hicks (see Page 71). Among other deals, he’d made many millions merging Dr Pepper with Seven Up and selling the company to Cadbury Schweppes. After the two men dissolved Hicks & Haas, Haas formed another buyout firm, Haas Wheat & Partners, and was working with Fort Worth’s Robert Bass to create one of the largest food companies in the United States (though that deal would not turn out as well). At dinner that night, Haas asked the Goldman Sachs fellow if he had a suggestion for an unusual vacation. The man had just returned from a safari in Kenya. So the following year, Haas made the first of more than a dozen trips to Africa. Since he didn’t have much experience in photography, Haas took along a basic Canon point-and-shoot.
Today, Haas, 60, is set to publish his sixth book of photography (his second with National Geographic). And now to take pictures, he has to use a helicopter. His signature style involves hanging out of an open door at about 1,500 feet, strapped in with a double harness of his invention.
“One of the real ironies is I’m not particularly fond of heights,” Haas told D Magazine on the publication of his fifth book, Through the Eyes of the Gods, on Africa. “But for whatever reason, I’m comfortable in the helicopter with the doors off.” Because aerial photography isn’t a terribly crowded field, he feels the vantage point allows him to work instinctually, without having to think about all the published images he’s seen from the ground.
Through the Eyes of the Condor looks at Mexico and South and Central America from the air and will be published in September. Haas is still doing deals through Haas Wheat, but as D went to press in June, he was hanging out of a helicopter somewhere over the Arctic. —TIM ROGERS