Sitting on the terrace of the Oak Room, the 25th-floor members-only sanctuary in Houston’s luxurious Post Oak Hotel, Tilman Fertitta is making his introductions when he spots an errant piece of potato chip on the floor. He instinctively scoops it up and discards it—though e does, in fact, own the joint, so there are plenty of wait sta; at his disposal to do this sort of tidying up. But it’s
second nature to a billionaire who learned the restaurant trade
from the ground floor and can’t stifle his inner busboy.
Fertitta has stepped outside on this warm sponge of a
Houston evening to escape the typically frigid air conditioning
within—is every thermostat in this town set to 60 degrees in
the summer?—that’s overmatching his standard dark T-shirt
and jacket. But noise from the tra;c on the I-610 freeway
below is incessant, so he rises and prowls the terrace as if to
assess any possibility of ending this acoustic outrage. “There
must be something we can do,” he says.
Maybe he’ll have the highway moved.
Over the past four decades, Fertitta has built Fertitta
Entertainment, a restaurant, gaming, hospitality, amusement,
and sports conglomerate—and become a business celebrity,
with his own TV show, Billion Dollar Buyer—by demonstrating
an ability to pay attention to little things and pull o; big deals
in whatever proportion is necessary.
He became an entrepreneur at age 20. About 10 years later,
after buying control of a small Houston-area restaurant company named Landry’s in late 1986, he embarked on a classic
roll-up strategy, giving him 522 restaurants today under some
60 brands, including Mastro’s, Willie G’s, Bubba Gump Shrimp
The holdings of a college
hotels, pleasure piers, and an
NBA basketball team.
2018 revenue: $2.6 billion
Landry’s has rolled up
more than 60 brands,
Morton’s, Bill’s Bar &
Burger, Willie G’s, Bubba
Gump, and Saltgrass
Steak House (right).
Fertitta made the
in Vegas pay off
despite buying it
just before the