Richard Kinder has had a winding path to fortune. After graduating from the University of Missouri, he became a lawyer and real estate investor in Houston. Then a bad investment in a Howard Johnson’s forced him to file for bankruptcy in 1980, and he eventually joined his college friend Kenneth Lay’s company, Enron, where he would serve as president and CEO from 1990 to 1996. In 1997, Richard teamed up with another college classmate, Bill Morgan, to start the pipeline company Kinder Morgan Energy Partners.
Today Kinder Morgan is one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in the country, with roughly 84,000 miles of pipelines and about 165 terminals. Under Richard’s leadership, Kinder Morgan acquired El Paso Corp in 2012 for $38B and consolidated its four publicly traded affiliates into one company in 2014. Richard and his wife have also donated $2M to a PAC for Jeb Bush, and more than $100M to fund construction of parks and museums in Houston.