In a dazzling ceremony at the Grand Hyatt Hotel ballroom Thursday night, the Texas Business Hall of Fame added seven new members to its influential roster — including three prominent business men from San Antonio and a famed billionaire who isn’t from Texas but got here as fast as he could.
Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren E. Buffet, in an acceptance speech outlining his credentials, listed the company’s holdings in Texas, including Star Furniture, BNSF Railway, Acme Brick, newly acquired North Park Toyota in San Antonio, and more.
With total revenues at $211 billion in 2015 and a net income of $24.4 billion, Buffett’s company is the fourth-largest on the Fortune 500 list. The “Oracle of Omaha,” as he’s known, announced in 2006 that he would give away most of his fortune before his death, and by last year, had already donated shares worth more than $25 billion to five foundations.
“I like big deals. And Texas likes big deals,” Buffett, 85, told the crowd of more than 1,000 at the black-tie event sponsored by Texas Capital Bank for the third year in a row, and McLane Company, Berkshire Hathaway’s $48 billion supply chain services leader based in Texas.
“Thanks for making me an adopted son.”
The Texas Business Hall of Fame Foundation was created 34 years ago by a small group of Texas business men and women to recognize the achievements of business legends and honor their contributions to the state. Kirk McDonald, Zachry Group’s executive vice president of finance, chairs the executive committee.
Calling them “difference makers,” former Mayor Henry Cisneros, who served as the master of ceremonies for the sold-out event, introduced Buffett, his lifelong business partner and vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Charles T. Munger, and the other inductees, including:
- Charles E. Cheever, chairman emeritus, Broadway Bank, San Antonio
- Gordon V. Hartman, founder, The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, San Antonio
- Dennert O. Ware, executive chairman of the board, CeloNova BioSciences, Inc., San Antonio
- Gary C. Kelly, chairman, president and CEO, Southwest Airlines, Dallas
- Dian Graves Stai, chairwoman, Mansefeldt Investment Corporation, Abilene
The Texas Business Hall of Fame has also raised millions of dollars in college scholarships for “future Texas business legends.” Cisneros introduced this year’s scholarship winners, 36 college students who each earned a $15,000 award and a standing ovation.
Six currently attend schools in San Antonio:
- St. Mary’s University – Ryan M. Wempe, Charles Collins Anderson IV, and Sean Strater
- Trinity University – Nicklaus Petro
- University of the Incarnate Word – Ramil Rodriguez
- University of Texas at San Antonio – Luke Pete Scamardo III
Among those congratulating the newest members of the Hall of Fame were formerly honored leaders from San Antonio, Charlie Amato (2013), Gary Dudley (2013), Dr. James Leininger (2007), Harvey Najim (2010), Rosemary Kowalski (2004), Bill Greehey (2002) and Carlos Alvarez (2012). An honoree n 2013, H-E-B was represented by President and Chief Operating Officer Craig Boyan.
The event also drew a power crowd including Sen. Ted Cruz and his wife Heidi and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and his wife Julie. Straus appointed Buffett and Munger “honorary Texans” and presented them with cowboy hats.
Munger, 92, spoke of his San Antonio roots and his admiration for Texas. As a second-lieutenant at Kelly Field, he worked alongside Army Air Corps meteorologists from Texas A&M University.
“I’ve never seen as much enthusiasm as I did in them,” Munger said.