Billionaire Houston restaurateur Tilman Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets, in a move that falls decidedly under the category of “Things Tilman Fertitta would do.” He’s the kind of guy who would buy an island and have it towed to a better part of the sea.
Until now he has best been known as the owner of Landry’s restaurants, which if you haven’t seen in person, you may recognize from the many advertisements in in-flight magazines. I suspect it will be great fun having him in the NBA, but here are four fun things to know about Tilman Fertitta to get you started.
4) He sold his stake in the Houston Texans when he bought one of Donald Trump’s failed casinos.
The NFL does not want you betting on its games now, you hear me?! Gambling is illegal and gambling is a sin, and so the rule is, if you own a casino, you can’t own an NFL team.
A few years back this put Tilman Fertitta in a bind. He was one of the founders of the Houston Texans, but a sweet deal had come up on the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City. Donald Trump had managed to lose money on a casino, and needed to get rid of it to keep the creditors off his back. Neither Fertitta nor the Texans wanted him to sell his stake in the franchise, but there was nothing they could do about it.
Fertitta said the casino was “a mess” when he got it.
“There had not been money spent on it in years and years.”
3) He has his own private hangar at Houston’s Hobby Airport.
If you’re going to be a billionaire, you owe it to the rest of us to show just how fantastical life can be when there is nothing you can’t afford. It’s like watching a cartoon character in a universe where an anvil to the head just makes a little bump.
Fertitta has this hangar at Hobby Airport, which is an international airport, and it’s got the Landry’s logo on the roof so you can see it as you fly in and suddenly, subtly, subliminally, you find yourself thinking … why yes, now that I think about it, I am hankerin’ for some of Bubba’s Far Out Dip.
The guy bought an entire boardwalk, the Kemah Boardwalk, between Galveston and Houston, and the whole place is Landry’s. Same thing with the Pleasure Pier on the seawall in Galveston.
It’s fair to say Houstonians have mixed feelings about it, but these places are extremely popular.
2) He’s a big Houston Cougars guy.
Tilman loves the Coogs. He was born in Galveston, and went to college at Texas Tech and Houston, and is chairman of the Board of Regents for the University of Houston.
When Tom Herman was being courted by Texas, Fertitta said Houston wasn’t afraid of a bidding war with Texas.
“I do not fear a bidding war for Tom,” Fertitta said. “We’re not going to lose him over money.”
Houston lost him anyway, because Texas is one of those jobs, but with Fertitta, the football program and aggressive UH president Renu Khator, the school has taken on a more prominent public profile over the last five or so year.
1) He’s a reality TV star.
Some billionaires are reclusive, some are bookish, and some are guys like Mark Cuban, Donald Trump, Elon Musk — guys who like to be seen, like to put on a show. Fertitta belongs to this group. He has a TV show called Billion Dollar Buyer, the premise of which is … oh, what difference does it make? It’s on TV, the ratings are good, and it’s making him more famous.
I expect Fertitta will very much enjoy owning an NBA team because, as Kanye phrased it, his life is dope and he does dope (stuff).