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Robert Rowling is the founder of TRT Holdings, the holding company of Omni Hotels and Gold's Gym. Forbes magazine in 2007 lists him as the 49th wealthiest American.

 

In 1972, Rowling began working for Tana Oil and Gas, which was owned by his father, Reese Rowling, and William Colson. In 1989 Texaco acquired Tana for $476 million, thereby providing money that was used to form TRT Holdings. Five years later, TRT Holdings sold Corpus Christi National Bank for $131 million. TRT Holdings would later purchase Omni Hotels for $500 million and Gold's Gym for $180 million.

Robert Rowling served as a regent to the University of Texas System until February 6, 2009 when he resigned over a controversy regarding bonuses paid to the UTIMCO investment staff. Governor Rick Perry and Texas state senators had sought to go back on compensation agreements with the staff. Unwilling to break the contracts and disgusted by their grandstanding, Rowling quit during a Texas Senate Finance Committee meeting and followed it up a day later with a formal letter of resignation [1]

and has been given the title of Bush Pioneer for his contributions to the Bush campaign.

A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, Rowling has an undergraduate degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from Southern Methodist University.

Robert Rowling of Irving is the owner and chairman of TRT Holdings, Inc., a privately owned, diversified holding company that owns the Omni Hotels chain and Tana Exploration Co. Rowling serves as chairman of Omni Hotels. He is a member of the board of trustees of The University of Texas System, the board of directors of the Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) and chairs the Task Force on U.T. Dallas Lands. Rowling is ... the past chairman of the Corpus Christi Area Economic Development Corp. He currently chairs SMU's Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series and serves on the national board of trustees for Young Life. In October 2003, Rowling was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame, and he received the 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award from SMU's Dedman School of Law. A graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, Rowling received his law degree from SMU's Dedman School of Law.

Today, Robert Rowling is owner and chairman of TRT Holdings Inc., and chairman of TRT’s luxury hotel division, Omni Hotels. He ... serves on the UT System Board of Regents. David Rowling worked as an independent landman in the energy industry and now is involved in ranching.

One night after buying the Omni Hotel chain in 1996, Robert Rowling sat in a plush room at one of his hotels flipping through the channels. He was dismayed at the pornograhic films available on pay-for-view channels.

Reese and Robert Rowling were inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame in 2003. Reese Rowling established the Reese M. Rowling Endowed Fund in Geology and was honored as the Gold Nugget Award recipient for the College of Science in 1993.

Robert B. Rowling ist Gründer der TRT Holdings Inc. Unter dieser Holding ist unter anderem die Hotelkette Omni Hotels und Gold's Gym organisiert. Das Forbes Magazine hat Rowling im Jahr 2006, als den 42. reichsten Mann Amerikas ausgewiesen.

To hold onto their Forbes 400 spots for the long run, some of these Power Players would be smart to take a cue from George Kaiser (US$11 billion) and Robert Rowling (US$6.4 billion) and diversify. Though their fortunes started with oil, today Kaiser has US$2.3 billion in BOK Financial, while more than half of Rowling’s total comes from his Omni Hotels chain.

Together with his son, UT System Board of Regents member Robert Rowling, he formed TRT Holdings Inc., acquiring a majority interest in MBank Corpus Christi. Tana’s portfolio of reserves was later merged into a subsidiary of Texaco Inc.

ROBERT B. ROWLING was appointed to The University of Texas System Board of Regents by Governor Rick Perry in July 2004 to complete the term of Charles Miller, which expired February 1, 2005. Regent Rowling was elected as a Vice Chairman on November 9, 2007. He served as Chairman of the Finance and Planning Committee and as a member of the Academic Affairs Committee and the Health Affairs Committee. During his tenure, Vice Chairman Rowling also chaired the Board of Directors of The University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) and the Task Force on U. T. Dallas Lands.

Mr. Robert Rowling is the owner and Chairman of TRT Holdings Inc., a privately owned, diversified holding company located in Irving, Texas. TRT owns the luxury Omni Hotels chain and Tana Exploration Company. TRT also has significant ownership interests in Gold’s Gym International, Waldo’s Dollar Mart in Mexico, numerous public companies, and various real estate ventures. Mr. Rowling oversees Tana Exploration Company’s active oil and gas exploration program in the Gulf of Mexico, and he serves as Chairman of Omni Hotels, which TRT purchased in 1996.

Mr. Rowling is dedicated to the education and development of students at all levels. He currently serves on the national board of trustees for Young Life, the Christian nonprofit organization committed to middle school and high school ministries. He chairs Southern Methodist University’s Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series, one of the country’s leading forums for intellectual inquiry. The series, which presents some of the world’s most provocative speakers, benefits the students of Southern Methodist Universtiy with nearly $1 million in scholarships annually. Mr. Rowling is a past member of the advisory councils for the Longhorn Foundation and the Red McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

In the corporate arena, Mr. Rowling has served on numerous boards, including Nations Bank of Texas, the J.G. Boswell Company, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors, and the St. Paul and Zale Lipshy University Hospitals. He is the past Chairman of the Corpus Christi Area Economic Development Corporation.

Honored for his professional success and civic awareness, Mr. Rowling was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame in October 2003 and received the 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University. A native of Corpus Christi, Mr. Rowling graduated with honors from The University of Texas at Austin in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He earned a juris doctor degree with honors in 1979.

 

 

Most Dallas billionaires love the limelight. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, last year fox-trotted, mamboed and jive danced his way through Dancing With the Stars.

T. Boone Pickens, former corporate raider and present-day champion of natural gas and wind power, is starring in his own campaign to wean the United States off foreign oil, testifying before Congress and appearing in television ads.

Talkative tycoon Ross Perot ran for president in 1992. Even local developer and oilman Ray Hunt, who likes his privacy, occasionally speaks out on issues, such as his company's controversial oil deal in Iraq.

Then there's Robert Rowling, whose estimated $6.2 billion makes him richer than them all. A 54-year-old Corpus Christi native who got his start in his father's oil and gas business, Mr. Rowling is embarking on a buying spree that may add to his fortune – or show that even billionaires make mistakes.

But don't expect to see him reveling in the spotlight. Robert Rowling is a name unfamiliar to most Texans. And he seems to like it that way.

"In general, he keeps a pretty low profile," said his assistant, Laura Ruiz, in the process of telling a reporter that Mr. Rowling would not be commenting for this article.

Who is he?

The married father of two, living quietly in Highland Park and going to church on Sunday, has amassed a grab bag of hotels, fitness centers, oil and gas assets, financial and energy stocks, a fifth of downtown Corpus Christi real estate, even a chain of Mexican dollar stores.

It adds up to a fortune that makes him the 51st-richest American, according to Forbes magazine.

He's a major Republican donor, with recent donations to GOP presidential candidate John McCain.

Mr. Rowling (rhymes with bowling) is vice chairman of the University of Texas' Board of Regents and chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Co., the company that oversees more than $23 billion for the UT and Texas A&M systems.

And at the helm of his holding company, TRT Holdings Inc., he continues to expand his business empire from a Las Colinas office building. He's placed recent bets on everything from hotels to a Texas bank caught up in the U.S. housing bust.

He's done this all without ever getting his picture on the front page of his adopted hometown's daily newspaper.

This story was pieced together using Securities and Exchange Commission filings, news accounts and Mr. Robert Rowling's biography in the Texas Business Hall of Fame.

Robert Brian Rowling, the son of a self-made oilman, was born in 1953 and grew up in Corpus Christi. He earned a degree in business administration from the University of Texas at Austin, then went off to law school at Southern Methodist University.

After graduation, the newly minted lawyer embarked on a career in tax law. He lasted a year before jumping to his father's Corpus Christi company, Tana Oil and Gas Corp., in 1981.

The elder Mr. Rowling, Reese, was a talented geologist, and he had built Tana into a large South Texas energy producer. Even before joining the company, Robert Rowling had spent years learning the business by looking over his father's shoulder.

Oil plays

Oil prices were setting new highs when Robert Rowling joined the company. The Rowlings decided it was a good time to sell the company's oil and gas reserves.

Oil prices plummeted in the following years, devastating the Texas energy industry – and the Rowlings used the opportunity to build their reserves back up.

By the end of the '80s, they'd built the foundations of a fortune. In 1989, the family sold Tana's assets to Texaco Inc. for $476.5 million.

Bargain hunters

The Rowlings then tried their hand at other businesses, often jumping in during economic troubles to snare a bargain:

•Out of the wreckage of the 1980s Texas banking crash, they bought a majority stake in Dallas-based MCorp's Corpus Christi operation in 1990. After recapitalizing it with $20 million and renaming it Corpus Christi National Bank, they sold it four years later to a precursor of Bank of America Corp. for $131 million in stock.

•The Rowlings bought Omni Hotels in 1996 for about $500 million from Hong Kong-based Wharf (Holdings) Ltd. Later that year, Mr. Rowling, a devout Christian, ordered the hotels to eliminate their pornographic pay-per-view channels.

He moved Omni's headquarters from New Hampshire to Corpus Christi, then to North Texas to be closer to a major airport. He soon moved here himself and now lives in a home on Beverly Drive valued by tax appraisers at $8.5 million. It's a stone's throw from the Dallas Country Club. (Mr. Rowling is an avid golfer, friends say.)

•The Rowlings rebuilt Tana in the 1990s and sold it once more, this time to Unocal Corp. in 1999 for a payday north of $100 million (the exact figure was not disclosed). They also sold a pipeline company they'd built to PG&E Corp., turning a 1982 investment of $61 million into a 1996 sale for $380 million.

•In 2002, Mr. Robert Rowling formed yet another oil and gas company called Tana, which now operates in the Gulf of Mexico. He also bought Gold's Gym International Inc. in 2004 for $158 million, according to the Web site of the private equity firm that sold it to him.

The unifying thread among such disparate holdings? Only Mr. Rowling knows for sure. Associates describe him as an incisive thinker, with a good sense of industry trends and market dynamics – and a quick mind for numbers.

"Bob is a strategic thinker," said James Huffines, a commercial banker in Austin with Dallas-based PlainsCapital Bank, who serves with Mr. Rowling on the UT Board of Regents. "He understands numbers backward and forward, and it's my impression that he gets involved in all of the numbers when he makes a decision."

Now, amid a stock market swoon and a grinding downturn, Mr. Rowling is on the prowl again.

Earlier this year, he shelled out about $139 million for a 14 percent stake in Gaylord Entertainment Co., according to a regulatory filing last month. The company's stock had fallen by more than half in the 12 months before he announced his purchase.

It's risen nearly 30 percent since then.

The transaction had some analysts atwitter that the tycoon might want to forge a deal between Gaylord and Omni. Others played down the possibility.

"It has nothing to do with any synergy between Omni and Gaylord," said Bruce Walker, president of Source Strategies Inc., a hotel consulting firm in San Antonio. "You have a savvy hotel investor in Rowling, and he saw an opportunity."

Risky purchase

Mr. Robert Rowling's purchase of a stake in Austin-based Guaranty Financial Group Inc., a bank and insurance company battered by the recent housing bust, may be riskier.

Mr. Rowling is pouring about $150 million into Guaranty, which has seen its stock price drop about 70 percent this year. The transaction, which was arranged in a private placement that also involved New York billionaire Carl Icahn, is expected to give Mr. Rowling a nearly 20 percent stake in Guaranty.

"We feel this investment has significant upside," Mr. Rowling said in a Guaranty news release at the time.

The deal amounts to a bet that Guaranty has a profitable future despite its exposure to the devastated housing markets in California and other states.

The company has posted net losses this year as executives have set aside more money to pay for bad loans.

The capital infusion gained with the private placement strengthened Guaranty's balance sheet, but it remains far from clear when the company will throw off the kind of profit its backers are hoping for.

"The whole [housing and economic] downturn has caught most investors and financial analysts by surprise. Can anyone really say what the bottom is?" asked Stephen Skaggs, president of the Bank Advisory Group LLC, a consulting firm in Austin. "I think more investors than not who are bottom-fishing will probably make a whole lot of money, but there are going to be some who guessed wrong."

Mr. Robert Rowling has built one of the largest fortunes in Texas by guessing right.

In the worst financial crisis in decades, he's betting a recovery is close enough to once again put his money down.

 

 
 
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