Co., Chart House, Saltgrass Steak House, Bill’s
Bar & Burger, Morton’s, and, most recently,
Del Frisco’s. Fertitta and his family also own four
aquariums and a Hilton, a Holiday Inn, and a
Westin, among other hotels, plus a Bentley and
Rolls-Royce dealership. There’s the Pleasure Pier
in Galveston and another one in Kemah, Texas.
Oh, he has casinos, too. And an NBA basketball
team. This year, those assorted businesses will generate around
$4.6 billion in revenue and throw o; $800 million in ebita.
“I’d like to say I’m the smartest guy in the room, but I’m not,”
he tells Inc., which may or may not be false modesty. You can’t
go to any of the company’s websites without seeing his permanently grizzled mug gazing from the cover of his new book,
Shut Up and Listen, which pretty much makes the case that of
course he’s smarter than you. “But I do more things better than
most people,” he concedes.
He’s got a point there. “Do more better” could be his mantra.
It’s essentially the di;erence between being an investor and
being an operator. Over time, Fertitta taught himself to be a
master executive and applied those skills to an ever-expanding
number of business lines. “People called him a restaurateur,”
says Rick Liem, his longtime CFO. “But he’s really an entrepre-
neur, and a really, really good businessman. I don’t care what
the business is. He will figure it out.”
One of the things he figured out was the gaming industry.
In 2005, as CEO of Landry’s Restaurants Corp., then a public
company, he spent nearly $320 million to buy the Golden
Nugget casinos on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas
and in Laughlin, Nevada. He had no experience in the casino
business, and the price was a steep multiple. When he first
brought the idea to his M&A guru, Dave Jacquin, founder of
North Point Advisors, the advice was not ambiguous. “I told
him, ‘This is crazy,’;” says Jacquin.
But I have a plan, Fertitta responded. And the plan was:
Tilman Fertitta. “He makes the bet on himself,” says Jacquin,
“and then he makes those bets pay o;.”
The bet was to spend $300 million to renovate the Fremont
Street Golden Nugget and build a new tower, despite some
classically bad timing. When the financial crisis struck in
2008, the ferocious downturn that followed impaled Vegas.
The industry’s biggest company, Caesars Entertainment
Operating Co., would eventually go under, weighed down by
more than $20 billion in debt. Landry’s, too, had debt maturing in 2008—and lenders were evaporating.
But Fertitta proved to be one of the few in the industry
who performed during the tough times. “Throughout the crisis,
he did a remarkable job operating his company,” says Rich
ENTERTAINMENT AND HOSPITALITY
include the Galveston
Pleasure Pier (left)
and four aquariums.
Fertitta also owns
the five-star Post Oak
Hotel in Houston,
the San Luis Resort
in Galveston Island,
and a Hilton, a Westin,
and a Holiday Inn.
Fertitta paid a
for the NBA’s
spent a lot on