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Meet a Restaurant Tycoon Changing the Face of Houston

Tilman Fertitta is the world’s richest restaurateur

Tilman Fertitta began his career by shucking shrimp at his father’s restaurant in Galveston. Today, he is the wealthiest shrimp shucker on the planet as the sole proprietor of Landry’s, Inc., which operates global fast-casual dining chains including Rainforest Café, Joe’s Crab Shack and Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. But since landing on the Forbes 400 list in 2012, the swashbuckling billionaire has entered the luxury market – bringing everything from luxury sports-car dealerships to a forthcoming, $300 million hotel to the Houston heartland.

“We own a Bentley and Bugatti dealership right out front,” says Fertitta, describing the future site of Post Oak. Slated to open in the first quarter of 2018, the megaplex will house a 38-story hotel offices, restaurants, retail and, yes, Bentley, Bugatti and Rolls-Royce showrooms. Once complete, says Fertitta, the luxury fleet will adorn the hotel interior. “We’re actually moving the dealerships [inside] so the cars will be in the hotel,” he says. “It’s something really special; I don’t have to have any in my fleet because I can go grab them whenever I want.”

Besides the luxury cars a la carte, the hospitality-meets-retail concept is poised to resemble the mixed-use developments popping up across luxury markets, from Miami’s Faena District to New York’s Hudson Yards. Indeed, Post Oak, which derives its name from the old-growth oak trees that surround the area, will include Texas’s first Mastro’s Steakhouse – a New York institution that Fertitta added to his restaurant portfolio five years ago.

Despite his status as a business leader and kingmaker (he deploys his Midas touch as the host of CNBC’s entrepreneur competition Billion Dollar Buyer), it’s clear Fertitta’s heart lies in Houston. In late 2017, he legendarily bid a record-breaking $2.2 billion for the Houston Rockets – thus acquiring the team he’d cheered on courtside for decades. And through it all, he’s never lost perspective. “When one of my kids recently asked for money for Christmas shopping, I said, ‘When I was your age, I always had money.’ I always worked hard.”

Main image: Donna Ward/Getty Images