Stealth billionaire lays claim to Woodall Rodgers park naming rights



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June 9, 2014

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Stealth billionaire lays claim to Woodall Rodgers park naming rightsBy CHERYL HALLStaff Writercherylhall@dallasnews.comPublished: Feb 18, 2012 11:15 PMAfter seven years of being called Woodall RodgersDeck Park, Dallas’ master-planned public oasis atop abusy freeway finally has an official name.But it’s not one many people will recognize.Dallas energy billionaire Kelcy Warren has paidundisclosed millions to name the 5.2-acre park KlydeWarren Park in honor of his 9-year-old son.It’s a rare step into the public spotlight for the56-year-old chief executive of Energy Transfer PartnersLP. He has an estimated worth of $2 billion.The company, which he co-founded in 1995 as asmall intrastate natural gas pipeline, had $6.85 billionin revenue last year.Warren, who is also chairmanof Energy Transfer Equity LP, led asuccessful $9.4 billion bidding war forSouthern Union Group. Throughoutthe battle for the Houston pipelinecompany, Warren was quoted only in passing.”I’m not very well known in Dallas,” Warren saidThursday, sitting in his Oak Lawn headquarters offices.”I like keeping it that way. But we have been soridiculously blessed financially. We have a responsibilityto give some of that back.”The deal was made in late July, but the announcementwas kept under wraps while Warren was knee-deep inthe Southern Union deal. When completed next month,Energy Transfer will become the largest natural gaspipeline network in the nation. But that status will befleeting.”Right after we stepped into the deep end of thepool, it’s funny, other people did that as well,” Warrensaid. “Kinder Morgan is merging with El Paso, and thenit’ll be the largest.”UTA gradRaised in the small East Texas town of White Oak,Warren is the youngest of three boys of a stay-at-homemom and a dad who was in the pipeline business.He received his degree in civil engineering from theUniversity of Texas at Arlington and spent summersworking with his dad as a welder’s assistant.His mother called him Kelcy Lee until the day shedied. He was named after his dad’s Army buddy, whichaccounts for the odd spelling.His son, Klyde, is named for Warren’s hometownmentor, Clyde Tuttle, who taught him how to fish, huntand enjoy the outdoors. Warren says his former wife isresponsible for the K.Warren is a soft-spoken, boots-and-jeans guy whosees himself as a salesman selling a blue-collar service.”You always want to look like you need your next mealif you’re a salesman. You never want to look affluent.”Longtime friends and associates say the best and worst thing about working with Warren is trying tokeep up with a guy whose mind is always clicking on anew opportunity.”Personally, he is humble and engaging and agood friend,” said Ken Hersh, chief executive of NGPEnergy Capital Management. “Professionally, he’s gotsome of the best instincts of any businessman orbusinesswoman that I’ve come across. That’s a rarecombination.”Banker Jody Grant, chairman of the Woodall RodgersPark Foundation, said he’s amazed at the park’s goodfortune. “You think of all the people who might wantto have their names on the park. Well, Kelcy Warrenwasn’t on my radar screen at all. It was just one ofthose wonderful chance encounters that worked.”Warren and Grant both belong to the Dallas chapterof TIGER 21, an investment club whose ultra-richmembers have at least $10 million to invest. WhenWarren hosted the group at his island estate offHonduras last year, Grant spent some time talkingabout the park.Once back in Dallas, Warren, a music lover whoplays the guitar, met with Grant to ask about the park’splans for live performances.”I think Jody might have figured he had a bass outthere waiting to be reeled in,” said Warren, who ownsMusic Road Records, a recording studio in Austin.”Music is the glue that bonds us all together. Ithought, ‚ÄòWouldn’t it be great if there was a classyplace where people could listen to music and wheremusic could influence children’s lives?’ Jody assured methat that was one of the directions.”Grant calls Warren “the perfect naming partner.Kelcy has a keen interest in elevating Dallas’ profile as amusic center. And I have a keen interest in making thepark a venue for emerging artists, for amateurs tryingto get a break and the kids from Booker T. Washington”arts magnet school.Plans include free music festivals, studentperformances, jam sessions and concerts by the DallasSymphony Orchestra. The first performances will be atthe grand opening, slated to begin Oct. 25.Warren has been so good at keeping a low profilethat when Linda Owen, chief executive of the WoodallRodgers Park Foundation, made her rounds to informMayor Mike Rawlings, City Manager Mary Suhm and PaulDyer, director of the Park and Recreation Department,about the naming donor, each responded with a who’s-that look.”I’d never heard of him,” Rawlings said last week.”When I learned about him, I was thrilled. The park isa critical part of our renaissance.”Investment philosophyWarren said his investment philosophy shifteddramatically four years ago. Others had coached him todiversify into industries other than energy. Fortunately,he didn’t listen to them.”In 2008, I looked up and everything was fallingdown except the thing we were running here,” he said.”I thought, ‚ÄòWhy wouldn’t I take my money and dothings with it that my family, friends and my companycould use for entertainment that I believe are goingto hold their value or maybe even go up in value? Idecided I was going to conduct my life that way. It’sworked out well.”During the downturn, Warren bought some of theworld’s most unusual real estate. Among his holdings:an island off of Honduras with an estate the size of atown on a peninsula cliff, and Colorado’s 3,500-acremountain jewel, BootJack Ranch. He and his wife, Amy,and their friends use a fleet of private aircraft to get totheir farflung properties.Warren’s 8,000-acre Hill Country ranch is the sceneof his annual Cherokee Creek Music Festival, whereJackson Browne and Don Henley performed in May.All of the proceeds went to children’s charities, mostbased in Dallas.Two summers ago, Warren bought Larry and JoyceLacerte’s 23,000-square-foot Park Lane estate forabout $30 million, the highest price ever paid for apre-owned Dallas home.He’s made almost no changes to the castle-likecompound, which has a baseball diamond, bowlingalley, racquetball court, indoor swimming pool, tenniscourt and an outdoor pond stocked with giant koi.”It’s like the park,” he said. “Once people put all thishard work and vision into something, why tinker withit? Give a little money and get your name associatedwith it.”Naming rightsNo one is saying how much Warren paid for thenaming rights, but a potential donor who asked not tobe named said Grant was asking $10 million, and hedoubts that the foundation dropped the price.Grant will only say that it’s significantly more thanthe previous largest donation to the park, $5 million bythe Caruth Foundation.Warren’s gift pushed the park’s public and privatefunding to $106 million, just shy of its $110 milliongoal.Additional funds will be raised to create operatingreserves and an endowment.Warren said he decided it was time for his familyname to become more civically recognized with his sonas the standard bearer.”I did a lot of soul-searching before I decided todo this, because it’s putting a kid’s name on this,”Warren said. “With that goes a burden. I want my sonto know, ‚ÄòYou’re being watched. You can’t blend intothe upholstery like your dad has done all his life.’ I’msetting the bar a little higher for him.”One unique contract condition is that the park willoffer Warren’s son an annual internship until Klydeturns 21. “Kelcy said, ‚ÄòI don’t care if he sweeps in thepark. I want him in the park working,'” Grant said.BACKGROUND: Kelcy L. WarrenTitle: Chief executive, Energy Transfer Partners LP;chairman, Energy Transfer Equity LPAge: 56Born: Gladewater, TexasRaised: White Oak, TexasResidence: Preston HollowEducation: Bachelor of science in civil engineering,University of Texas at Arlington, 1978Personal: Married; one son, Klyde, from a previousmarriage