Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Termors Shaking Texas `Elite' Said Heralding End of an Era / `Big Oilman Is Gone'

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Termors Shaking Texas `Elite' Said Heralding End of an Era / `Big Oilman Is Gone'

Article excerpt

HOUSTON - The names of those struggling to hold their empires together are some of the best known in Texas: Clint Murchison, Cullen Davis and now the Hunt brothers of Dallas.

In the most profound way, experts say, the tremors shaking this state's elite herald the end of an era here. Whether it will be replaced by a new era of equal dynamism if different character is a matter of much debate.

But when the Hunts filed a bankruptcy petition Friday for their flagship business, the Placid Oil Co., it was the most potent symbol yet of the historic changes rattling across Texas as it tries toreadjust to a world where it can no longer depend on the riches of oil.

""The old wildcatter, the big oilman is gone,'' said T.R. Fehrenbach, the historian. ""Oil was a timely phenomenon, much like the cattle barons of the 19th century. There will be no more H.L. Huntsanymore than there will be any more cattle drives up the Chisholm Trail.''

Oil is a cyclical business, and no one doubts it will remain an important part of Texas' economy for the time being. But with no more spectacular fields to be found, it will be the preserve more oftechnicians and managers than of flamboyant wildcatters, Fehrenbach said.

Dr. Bernard Weinstein, director of the Center for Enterprising, at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, said:

""Texas only has one billionaire left, H. Ross Perot, and his considerable entrepreneurial talents are being employed by General Motors Corp. as the result of the acquistion of his company. Coming during Texas' sesquicentennial, it's hard not to see this as a watershed year, the end of an era.''

The Hunt brothers' problems, the culmination of a long series of financial reverses beginning with the collapse of silver prices in 1980, mirror those of many of the state's greatest fortunes.

Murchison, one of the state's legendary oilmen, filed for bankruptcy in 1984, and land surrounding his Dallas mansion were auctioned off because of unpaid debts. Davis, who made his fortune in oilfield equipment, was forced into involuntary bankruptcy proceedings by creditors last year.

At the height of the boom, Eddie Chiles, head of the Western Company of North America, was best known for his flamboyant television and radio commercials in which he railed against various nationalills and liberal viewpoints.

The commercials are long gone, and the Fort Worth man has been paring his business, trying to keep it going through the downturn. Most other oil entrepreneurs in the state are in the same position.

The reversal in fortunes of the state's barons are viewed in different ways. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.