|Tilman J. Fertitta|
June 25, 1957 (age 61)|
|Alma mater||University of Houston|
|Known for||Owner of Landry's, Inc. and Houston Rockets, star of Billion Dollar Buyer|
|Net worth||US$4.4 billion (March 2018)|
Tilman Joseph Fertitta (born June 25, 1957) is an American billionaire businessman and television personality. He is the chairman, CEO, and sole owner of Landry's, Inc., one of the largest restaurant corporations in the U.S. He also owns the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s Houston Rockets.
Fertitta is chairman of the board of regents of the University of Houston System. Fertitta became the star of Billion Dollar Buyer on CNBC. On September 5, 2017, Fertitta reached an agreement to buy the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion.
Fertitta was born and raised in Galveston, Texas, several generations after his family had emigrated to Texas from Sicily. His father, Vic, owned a seafood restaurant on Galveston Island, and after school, Tilman would peel shrimp in his father's restaurant.
Fertitta attended Texas Tech University and the University of Houston, studying business administration and hospitality management. His first entrepreneurial experience involved selling and promoting Shaklee vitamins.
Fertitta was a partner in the first Landry's Restaurant, Landry's Seafood, which opened its doors in the Houston suburb of Katy, Texas, in 1980. A year later, he helped open Willie G's Seafood & Steaks, a more upscale restaurant in Uptown Houston.
In 1986, Fertitta gained controlling interests of both locations, and in 1988, became sole owner of Landry's Restaurants. In 1993, he took Landry's, Inc. public and the company grew quickly, adding concept after concept.
In 2010, Fertitta, who already owned the majority of Landry's, Inc. stock, purchased all outstanding shares, becoming sole owner again. In 1993, the company was valued at approximately $30 million.
By 2011, the company's value had skyrocketed to a value of more than $1.7 billion. As of 2013, the company, under the leadership of Fertitta, owns and operates more than 500 restaurant/entertainment/gaming/hospitality locations. In total, Landry's, Inc. employs more than 50,000 people and controls $3.2 billion in assets.
His portfolio includes: The Golden Nugget Hotel and Casinos; Morton's The Steakhouse; Rainforest Cafe; Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.; McCormick & Schmick's Seafood & Steaks; Saltgrass Steak House; Claim Jumper; Chart House; The Oceanaire; Mastro's Restaurants; Grotto Restaurants  and Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse. In 2017 he acquired half of EMM group, owner of the Catch Restaurants.
In August 2017, it was revealed that the Oceanaire chain added a special tax to its bills in order to offset the minimum wage it pays employees. The chain and parent company were criticized by customers. The criticism and media coverage the led the company to remove the surcharge.
Fertitta first built the Key Largo Hotel in Galveston, Texas to buy the rights to Landry's. After acquiring restaurants under the company, Fertitta started focusing more on the hospitality division of Landry's and acquired the San Luis Resort, Spa, & Conference Center in Galveston, Texas. He also partnered with the City of Galveston to build the conference center in 2004 inside the resort. Fertitta since acquired two additional hotels on the island, including the Holiday Inn On the Beach in 2003, and the Hilton Galveston Island Resort in 2004, which stands adjacent to his San Luis Resort. In 2015, Fertitta added the Villas at San Luis section of the hotel, which consists of ultra-luxury villas with direct access to both the beach and the hotel's pool.
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Landry's first expanded to casinos in 2005 when it bought Golden Nugget Casinos, including locations in Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nevada. Since then, Landry's has opened casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Biloxi, Mississippi; and Lake Charles, Louisiana. The Golden Nugget Atlantic City was previously called the Trump Marina. Fertitta purchased this casino from The Trump Organization after the casino went bankrupt.
The Golden Nugget Lake Charles was bought after Fertitta found a license and resort land for sale from Pinnacle Entertainment, which owns the adjacent L'Auberge du Lac Resort. Fertitta stated he built the casino with the idea of having a casino in close proximity to his Houston hometown. After the first year proved the casino was successful, a new 300 room tower began construction on the property.
In addition to restaurants, hotels, and casinos, Landry's also owns amusement parks, aquariums, and the Kemah Boardwalk. Landry's, Inc. first acquired the Kemah Boardwalk in 1999. After acquiring the boardwalk, Fertitta added a few Landry's restaurants, and a few rides. In 2007, he added the Boardwalk Bullet which is a high speed wooden roller coaster. He also added the Boardwalk Fanta Sea, which is a luxury yacht cruise service where guests ride along the Galveston Bay.
The marina on the boardwalk is the largest concentration of boats and yachts in Greater Houston, as well as one of the largest in the nation. The boardwalk also includes an aquarium, which is under the same Landry's line of aquarium restaurants with locations in Houston, Denver, and Nashville. Travel + Leisure magazine named the Kemah boardwalk a top 10 American boardwalk.
In 2000, Landry's acquired the land on the 400 block of Bagby in Downtown Houston. The deal came from a proposal of the City of Houston to redevelop the fire station. After redeveloping the building, the aquarium added the shark tank and restaurant before opening in 2003.
Fertitta redeveloped the pleasure pier in Galveston, Texas, after the pier had closed after damages by Hurricane Ike. The pier reopened in 2012 as the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. The redeveloped pier includes an amusement park, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant, as well as shops.
During the process of building the Houston Texans as an NFL team, Fertitta was one of the original investors in creating the franchise. He then lasted as a partner for the Texans owner Bob McNair until 2008. Fertitta then had to sell his interest in the franchise, as he owns Golden Nugget casinos as part of Landry's subsidiary. NFL rules state any staff member of a team can't be associated with gambling. Both Fertitta and McNair were disappointed, as Fertitta was part of the franchise since the beginning, yet the team needed to comply with NFL rules.
In 2003, Fertitta bought the naming rights to the Crawford Boxes seating section of Minute Maid Park, calling it "Landry's Crawford Boxes". The term has become a commercial moniker during radio and television broadcasts. A Landry's sign is placed above the section, along with many of the company's subsidiaries. Traditionally, when a fan catches a home run, they are awarded a gift certificate to one of Landry's restaurants. Landry's promoters often visit the section and give away items such as T-shirts.
On September 4, 2017, he agreed to purchase the Rockets from Leslie Alexander, pending league approval, for an NBA record $2.2 billion. On October 6, 2017 Fertitta was approved by the NBA to own the Houston Rockets. Fertitta paid for the Rockets by selling $1.415 billion worth of bonds. By buying the Houston Rockets he also became the owner of Clutch Gaming, a professional eSports organisation focused on League of Legends.
Fertitta partnered with Richard Handler and announced a special-purpose acquisition company. The company would be called Landcadia, a word mix between Fertitta's Landry's and Handler's Leucadia. The company plans to raise as much as $300 million in initial public offering.
On May 16, 2018, Fertitta announced that Landcadia would acquire Waitr.
On January 12, 2016, it was announced that Fertitta would star in his own reality tv show titled Billion Dollar Buyer on CNBC. Billion Dollar Buyer premiered on March 22, 2016 at 10 P.M. Eastern Time. After receiving success during the first season, a second season was announced, featuring over twice as many episodes.
Fundraising and Public Service
Fertitta devotes a significant amount of his time to community service and support of charitable organizations around Houston. Throughout the year, Fertitta and his wife Paige host a wide variety of fundraising events and galas at their home.
Fertitta is Chairman of the Board of the Houston Children's Charity, which hosts an annual special fundraiser for the organization, called "A Gathering of Champions". The event is attended by well-known professional athletes from around Houston and across the nation. Guests attend in casual attire.
Fertitta was one of the original investors in Houston NFL team, the Houston Texans. In 2009, Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed Fertitta to the Board of Regents of the University of Houston System.
In 2008, Fertitta was named chairperson of the Houston Police Department's Police Foundation, supplying gear and equipment for Houston Police Officers. He serves on the Executive Committee for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
He is the third cousin of former UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta. An avid sports fan, Fertitta is a vocal supporter of the University of Houston Cougars and can be seen at most Cougar football and basketball games as well as court side for Houston Rockets basketball games. In 2016, Fertitta donated $20 million to rebuild Hofheinz Pavilion for University of Houston basketball along with donations for the construction of TDECU Stadium.
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