George Kaiser

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George Kaiser
Born (1942-07-29) July 29, 1942 (age 71)[1][2]
Residence Tulsa, Oklahoma[1]
San Francisco, California
Ethnicity Jewish
Citizenship United States[1]
Alma mater Harvard College (B.A.)
Harvard Business School (MBA)
Occupation Chairman of BOK Financial Corp.
Net worth Increase US$10.0 billion (March 2013)[3]
Religion Judaism
Spouse(s) Betty Eudene (deceased)
Myra Block
Children with Eudene:[1]
--Emily Kaiser
--Leah Kaiser
--Philip Kaiser

George B. Kaiser (born July 29, 1942[1][2][4]) is an American businessman. He is the chairman of BOK Financial Corporation in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is among the 100 richest people in the world[1] and one of the top 50 American philanthropists.[5]

Early life[edit]

Kaiser attended Central High School in Tulsa.[6] He earned a B.A. from Harvard College in 1964 and an MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1966.[7] He briefly considered joining the U.S. Foreign Service, but instead returned to Tulsa in 1966 to work for his father. Kaiser-Francis Oil Co. was created in the 1940s by Kaiser's uncle and parents, Jewish[8][9] refugees from Nazi Germany who settled in Oklahoma.[10][11]


Kaiser took control of Kaiser-Francis Oil Company in 1969. In 1990, Kaiser bought Bank of Oklahoma out of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation receivership. Despite BOK's depressed state, it was rich enough to land Kaiser on the Forbes 400 at one stroke. He has since expanded BOK from a 20-branch company located solely in Oklahoma into a $23.9 billion bank with operations in nine states. As of 2007, Kaiser's ownership interests in BOK were worth $2.3 billion. In 2008, with an estimated current net worth of around $12 billion, he was ranked by Forbes as the 20-richest person in America and the richest person in Oklahoma. In March 2009, in the face of the general world economic downturn, Forbes reported that Kaiser's net worth had dropped to $9 billion, ranking him in a tie for 43rd-richest person in the world.[12] It has since risen to $9.8 billion as the markets recovered.[1]

In April 2014, Kaiser bought Tom L. Ward's interest in The Professional Basketball Club LLC, the investment group headed by Clayton Bennett that owns the Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association, as well as its Tulsa 66ers minor league affiliate.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Kaiser has been married twice:

  • His first wife was Betty Eudene. Betty was a prominent literacy advocate volunteering more than 7,000 hours with the Tulsa City-County Library's literacy program. Betty died in 2002.[14] The couple had three children: Philip, Leah and Emily.[6]
  • His second and current wife is Myra Block,[6] daughter of Tulsa oilman and philanthropist, Charles Goodall,[6] known for establishing the small cities program on the Council of Jewish Federations.[15] The couple divides their time between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and San Francisco, California.

Kaiser is affiliated with Congregation B'Nai Emunah, the more conservative of Tulsa's two synagogues.[6]


Kaiser is listed third on BusinessWeek's 2008 list of the top 50 American philanthropists, behind Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates.[16][17] Among his prominent causes is fighting childhood poverty through the George Kaiser Family Foundation; he is also a major benefactor to the Jewish community in Oklahoma, which numbers about 5,000 people.[10][18] He has been notably active in the promotion of early childhood education.[4][19][20][21] Kaiser's family foundation is also the largest contributor to the Tulsa Community Foundation, which Kaiser established in 1998 because of his perception that that Tulsa's historical dependence on unorganized private giving from its wealthy families was no longer effective. Beginning with gifts from seventeen local philanthropists, by 2006 this foundation had grown to become the largest community foundation in the United States, and now has approximately four billion dollars in assets.[22][23][24][25][26]

Kaiser's family foundation funded the National Energy Policy Institute, a non-profit energy policy organization located at the University of Tulsa whose president since its inception is former Alaska governor Tony Knowles,;[27] and whose director was former U.S. Representative Brad Carson.[28] In January 2009, Kaiser drew attention after he told a committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives that the state should eliminate or reduce tax incentives for the oil and gas industry, and instead use the money for health care or education programs or for tax cuts for other taxpayers.[29][30]

Kaiser's family foundation was a large investor in the now-defunct Solyndra Corporation.[31]

Kaiser is among those who have made The Giving Pledge, a commitment to give away half of his wealth for charitable purposes.[32][33][34][35]

Political activities[edit]

Kaiser was a fundraiser for the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama, and functioned as a campaign bundler for Obama: an individual who collects contributions to a candidate from others that are then simultaneously given to the candidate.[36] At one 2007 event for Obama, he raised more than $250,000.

An 2011 article by Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation analyzed Kaiser's business activities and his use of legal tax avoidance strategies, including how during the 1980s bust in the oil industry in Oklahoma and Texas, Kaiser bought up struggling energy companies whose losses provided him with tax deductions that effectively offset his own income and left him with little or no tax liability.[37][38]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "George Kaiser - Forbes". Forbes. March 9, 2011. Retrieved May 11, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b George B. Kaiser, The Oklahoman (accessed 2013-02-28).
  3. ^ Forbes: The World's Billionaires: "George Kaiser" March 2013
  4. ^ a b Christopher Helman, "George Kaiser's $10 Billion Bet", Forbes, September 21, 2011.
  5. ^ "The 50 Top American Philanthropists", Businessweek website (accessed January 27, 2012).
  6. ^ a b c d e Tulsa World: "George Kaiser makes mark on Tulsa" By ZIVA BRANSTETTER October 16, 2011
  7. ^ George B. Kaiser bio
  8. ^ Holocaust: Records from Ten Ghettos Ghetto: Lodz Name: Dina Laja Wertheim Gender: F (Female) Birth Date: 1886 Profession: Kaufman (Merchant) Address: 4 Flat 24 Muhl Gasse Residence: Lodz, Poland Deportation Type: AUSG Deportation Date: 25 Mar 1942 Deportation Transport: TR 33
  9. ^ The Houston Jewish Herald-Voice Index to Vitals and Family Events, 1908-2007 Name: Ruth Feldgreber [Ruth Wertheim] Maiden Name: Wertheim Event: Death Published Date: 17 Aug 1994 Volume / Number: 86 / 22 Page & Column: p34c1 Reported in: Houston Event Date: 14 Aug 1994 Event Place: Tulsa OK Parents: Late Hugo & Dina Wertheim Funeral Date: 17 Aug 1994 Age: 72 Other Families: MARKOWITZ / KAISE
  10. ^ a b Russel Gold, "Oil billionaire takes a gamble to fix natural-gas shortage," The Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2004.
  11. ^ The Jerusalem Post: "The world's 50 Richest Jews: 11-20" September 7, 2010
  12. ^ "The World's Billionaires: #43 George Kaiser", Forbes, March 11, 2009.
  13. ^ Adam Wilmoth, "George Kaiser buys Thunder stake: Tulsa businessman George B. Kaiser is the newest co-owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder after buying out the ownership interest of Tom Ward." The Oklahoman, April 18, 2014.
  14. ^ Obituary: KAISER, Betty obit d. 2 MAY 2002 Tulsa Co., OK May 2, 2002
  15. ^ Jewish Virtual Library: "OKLAHOMA" retrieved May 3, 2013
  16. ^ "The 50 Top American Philanthropists," BusinessWeek, December 8, 2008.
  17. ^ "Warren Buffett Tops BusinessWeek's Annual Ranking of 'The 50 Most Generous Philanthropists," BusinessWeek press release, November 25, 2008.
  18. ^ "25 Billionaires and Millionaires That Became Philanthropists," Business Pundit, August 4, 2008.
  19. ^ David L. Kirp, "You're Doing Fine, Oklahoma! The universal pre-K movement takes off in unlikely places," The American Prospect, November 1, 2004.
  20. ^ David Leonhardt, "Bridging Gaps Early On in Oklahoma," New York Times, February 7, 2007.
  21. ^ "George Kaiser Speech on Childhood Education," New York Times, February 7, 2007.
  22. ^ Ginnie Graham, "Community foundation gains stature", Tulsa World, August 27, 2006.
  23. ^ Matt Cauthron, "Officials expect Tulsa Community Foundation to be largest in nation", The Journal Record, May 10, 2006.
  24. ^ P.J. Lassek, "City among beneficiaries enjoying Tulsa Community Foundation's millions", Tulsa World, January 3, 2011.
  25. ^ "Top Funders: 25 Largest Community Foundations by Asset Size", Foundation Center website (accessed January 26, 2011).
  26. ^ "Philanthropy 400 Data: Community Foundations", Chronicle of Philanthropy website (accessed January 26, 2011).
  27. ^ Rod Walton, "Green group to locate at TU," Tulsa World, March 11, 2009.
  28. ^ Rod Walton, "Ex-lawmaker to head TU energy institute: Brad Carson will direct NEPI, founded with a Kaiser gift", Tulsa World, January 26, 2010.
  29. ^ Barbara Hoberock, "Kaiser urges shift in state tax breaks," Tulsa World, January 23, 2009.
  30. ^ "Digger George: Kaiser wants plug on energy incentives," The Oklahoman, January 25, 2009.
  31. ^ David Mildenberg and Peter Robison, "Obama-Backing Billionaire’s Charity Sought Solyndra in Tulsa", Bloomberg Businessweek, September 26, 2011.
  32. ^ Gavin Off, "Kaiser, Pickens pledge to donate half their wealth", Tulsa World, August 4, 2010.
  33. ^ Ashli Sims, "Kaiser, Pickens Take The Giving Pledge", KOTV, August 5, 2010.
  34. ^ George Kaiser, "Duty bound to help those left behind", Tulsa World, August 8, 2010.
  35. ^ "The Giving Pledge". Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  36. ^ Anburajan, Aswini (March 28, 2008). "Fact check: Obama and oil". MSNBC. Archived from the original on 2013-02-21. Retrieved September 12, 2013. 
  37. ^ Bill Allison, "Barack Obama's other billionaire: How George Kaiser turned Oklahoma into his personal tax haven", Sunlight Foundation, October 13, 2011.[unreliable source?]
  38. ^