|Born||Billy Joe McCombs
October 19, 1927
Spur, Dickens County
|Net worth||US$1.63 billion (September 2015)|
|Spouse(s)||Charline Hamblin McCombs (m. 1950)|
Billy Joe “Red” McCombs (born October 19, 1927), is an American billionaire. He is the founder of the Red McCombs Automotive Group in San Antonio, Texas, a co-founder of Clear Channel Communications, chairman of Constellis Group, a former owner of the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, the Minnesota Vikings, and the namesake of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. He is on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. He is also known for his philanthropy.
In 2012, the San Antonio Express-News reported McCombs' net worth at $1.4 billion. He was ranked the 913th richest man in the world. Two other San Antonio men, Charles Butt of the H-E-B supermarket chain and Rodney Lewis, a natural gas driller, were placed above McCombs on the list.
McCombs was born in rural Spur in Dickens County in West Texas. His nickname "Red" comes from his hair color. His father was a mechanic who earned $25 per week but tithed through the First Baptist Church of Spur each week. McCombs recalled having seen his parents "share with those who had less, and the joy of giving never ceased to amaze me."
McCombs briefly attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, where he played football (lineman and receiver) until service from 1946 to 1947 in the United States Army. After completing his Army stint, McCombs enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, attending the business school and law school. While at the University of Texas, McCombs was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. In 1950, he married the former Charline Hamblin. In the early 1950s, McCombs left college to begin selling at George Jones Ford in Corpus Christi. In 1958, he and his fellow salesman, Austin Hemphill, moved to San Antonio to create Hemphill-McCombs Ford, which was the foundation for what ultimately became the Red McCombs Automotive Group.
McCombs entered the energy industry in the 1960s. He formed the Houston-based McCombs Energy. He has also been involved in the Koontz-McCombs development company. In 1972, McCombs partnered with Lowry Mays to purchase WOAI radio in San Antonio. The station was the launching point for Clear Channel Communications.
He has previously served as chairman of the trustees at Southwestern University and chairman of the University of Texas's M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. His particular interest in M. D. Anderson was accentuated in 1986, when he visited a dying friend undergoing treatment there. He expressed how he was overcome by the kindness of every employee he met at the hospital. The workers, he found, had been trained to offer compassion and solace to all who come through the doors. He joined the Anderson board and in 2005 donated $30 million to the hospital. The business school at the University of Texas was renamed the Red McCombs School of Business in recognition of his $50 million donation to the institution. The $50 million actually yielded $100 million in matching funds for new faculty positions, fellowships, and scholarships.
McCombs is the recipient of the Texas Legend Award from the Texas Automobile Dealers Association and the Living Legend award from the New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce. He has also been honored by the American Academy of Achievement, San Antonio Business Hall of Fame, San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame, Texas Business Hall of Fame, and the College Football Hall of Fame. He has received honorary degrees from Southwestern University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Texas Lutheran University.
McCombs is an influential member of the Alamo Endowment Board, which raises funds for the preservation and management of the Alamo Mission in downtown San Antonio. With the state purchasing three historic buildings in Alamo Plaza, McCombs said in October 2015 that he envisions an expansion program consistent with the reality of the Alamo story to enhance the overall experience of future visitors to the historic site.
McCombs is a reformed alcoholic, who could "handle his social drinking" until the age of forty-eight, when overcome with convulsions he went into a five-day coma at a medical facility in Houston. McCombs said in a Christmas 2016 interview, "God was good to me and for whatever reason wanted me to live, because I was really dead when I left in 1975 to go to Houston on that medical plane. They told Charline, 'Go ahead and start making arrangements because we are losing him.'" McCombs said that he recovered and never again had a desire for alcohol.
The McCombs Foundation has donated more than $118 million to charity. It is operated by his daughters who work to keep overhead at a minimum. The foundation makes small donations too, such as $1,000 to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which are rarely publicized. McCombs said that he is a large donor to charitable causes because "it makes me feel so good about doing it."
McCombs's first entry into sports came in 1969, when he established the Mexico Golden Aztecs of the Continental Football League, the first professional American football team to play in Mexico; McCombs folded the team after one month when he failed to draw fans in its original home of Monterrey and could not negotiate a relocation to Mexico City. In 1972, McCombs he joined Angelo Drossos and several other San Antonio businessmen in leasing the struggling Dallas Chaparrals of the American Basketball Association and moving them to San Antonio under the name the Spurs. Drossos and McCombs soon tore up their original lease agreement (that gave the two the option to move the team back to Dallas after three years if attendance was still struggling as it was before) and bought the team outright after only one year. The Spurs proved to be a runaway hit.
McCombs attributes construction of the HemisFair Arena as the essential development to the success of the Spurs. He contacted Lee Iacocca, then president of the Ford Motor Company, to seek funding for the arena to correspond with the 1968 World's Fair. At first Iacocca offered only $250,000 for the purchase of an art object, and he scolded McCombs and ridiculed San Antonio as "that little old dusty ass town of yours down there [with] no political or economic significance to the Ford Motor Company."
McCombs persisted and asked U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson to contact Henry Ford, II, and in a continued heated exchange even told Iacocca that Ford needed to improve the quality of its 1968 vehicles. McCombs located other investors, and the Dallas Chaparrals came to San Antonio five years later in 1973. McCombs realized the importance of television to sports events and saw the opportunity to bring San Antonio to a national stage. Under the McCombs administration the Spurs had their first superstar in George Gervin, called "The Iceman", who was recruited from the Virginia Squires.
Two years after taking the Spurs into the NBA, McCombs sold off his stake in the Spurs and bought another former ABA team, the Denver Nuggets. He held onto the team until 1985, when he sold it to Sidney Shlenker. In 1988, he reacquired controlling interest in the Spurs from Drossos, before selling them to current owner Peter Holt in 1993.
In 1998, McCombs bought the Minnesota Vikings for US$250 million. After an unsuccessful attempt to replace the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, McCombs sold the team to new (and current) owner Zygi Wilf before the 2005 football season.
McCombs' Wolf Creek ski area in southern Colorado, a planned resort, has drawn opposition from environmentalists and surrounding communities. McCombs has been unsuccessful in his attempts to convince the United States Forest Service to permit the development to begin. McCombs then attempted to build a 50,000-acre (200 km2) casino resort at Navajo Canyon on Lake Powell. The local Navajo Nation chapters, local government officials, all unanimously rejected the casino proposal and any projects by Red McCombs.
McCombs severely criticized the 2014 University of Texas hire of Charlie Strong as football coach. He described Strong as "great position coach ... not on a par with other candidates." Three days later he apologized, and pledged "total support" for Strong.
On July 27, 2010, McCombs announced his financial backing for bringing Formula One to the capital city of Austin, Texas. A new Formula 1 track was built in southeastern Travis County to host the event under a ten-year contract from 2012 to 2021. The first Formula One Race was held on November 18, 2012; the victor was the Briton Lewis Hamilton.
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