The Land Report

Texas 2018

The Magazine of the American Landowner is an essential guide for investors, landowners, and those interested in buying or selling land. The award-winning quarterly is known for its annual survey of America's largest landowners, The Land Report 100.

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88 The LandReport | T E X A S 2 0 1 8 LANDREPORT.COM A fter doing some research at the Houston Public Library, he cold-called the owner of Houston Oil & Minerals, J.C. Walsh, and asked for an interview. The wildcatter was so impressed by t he young man's moxie that he made him a promise: "Son, not o nly will I hire you, I'll teach you the business." Over the next several years, Russell worked in exploration, engineering, and operations. As the company grew, he served as chief troubleshooter, traveling the world, fixing problems, and buying and selling businesses. The last job he did for the company was to sell it in April 1981. He struck out on his own and promptly hit oil in the Austin Chalk near Giddings. He told his wife, Glenda, "We're rich. This is easy." After producing 1,000 barrels a day for three months, the well caught fire and blew out. The legendary Red Adair, who wasn't known for working cheap, drilled a relief well and hit water, a sure sign that the oil had played out. Russell drilled a second well that also hit water. In the meantime, the company that had bought the first well went bankrupt. Russell told Glenda, "Not only are we not rich, but we're just about bankrupt." Nevertheless, he found the ups and downs of wildcatting agreeable and ultimately profitable. "Back then, before the advent of shale, you'd hit oil one out of ten tries," he says. "When you're dropping $5 million on every dry hole, that tenth one had better be a good one." With the oil embargos of the 1970s still on everyone's mind, the early 1980s saw a short-lived boom. Thousands of rigs were operating in the US. In 1982, Russell scraped his nickels and dimes together and bought part of an old plantation in the Piney Woods near Lake Livingston, some 80 miles northeast of Houston. "I wanted my boys to have what I had, to know something besides the suburbs," he says. For the first few years, a corrugated metal barn sans running water was their home place. Roughing it suited Russell, Shaun, and Garrett. Glenda, who grew up in rural Louisiana, went along with the arrangement until one winter morning when she woke up to find a large wood rat snuggling with her. She calmly woke Russell and told him to get the damn thing off her at once. Construction on a proper cabin began forthwith. I n 1985, Russell sold his first company right before oil prices collapsed. Despite the disappointments inherent to the energy business, the overall trend has been sharply upward since then. O ilfields purchased at bottom dollar, coal bed methane drilling, a nd sophisticated minerals exploration have added hundreds of millions to his fortune. In 2004, he acquired the mineral rights to some 1.5 million acres through a deal with U.S. Steel. Thanks to these successes, Russell's original 113-acre Piney Woods acreage has grown to more than 8,000 acres. He also owns the 48,000-acre Double Arrow Ranch on the Yellowstone River in Montana, an 80,000-acre ranch in Wyoming, and the 19,000-acre La Ceniza in South Texas. An additional 22,000 acres of timberland in Wisconsin are a recent addition to his portfolio. All told, the native Houstonian ranked N o . 68 on the 2017 Land Report 100 with 212,000 acres. Although Shaun and Garrett have access to the finest hunting and fishing in North America, they still consider the family's original Piney Woods property their favorite. "Their love of the outdoors, hunting, fishing, and guns grew out of their boyhood experience on that place," Russell says. "So many memories were made there. How can you forget your mom hosing you off at the back door after you've come in from four-wheeling?" In the not-so-distant future, the Gordys plan to develop a Southern-style quail plantation and English-style shooting school on the property. Houstonians pressed for time will be able to shuttle to and from the club via helicopter directly from Gordy & Sons. As his acreage increased, Russell's gun collection swelled, from a few to a lot to who knows how many. "I really don't want to know how many guns I own because I don't want to have to tell my wife if she asks," Russell says. Still, Glenda has a good sense of the scale of the collection; she often jokes that if the family lost everything but the guns, she could sell them for a dollar each and still be rich. About five years ago, Russell started thinking about what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. "Glenda was always after me, reminding me that I'm not going to live forever and that I needed to get busy doing what I want to do. When I told her I wanted to open the world's best gun store, she said, 'That's not what I meant!'" His younger son, Garrett, a fanatical fly fisherman, loved the idea, but he insisted that the store should include a fly- fishing component. He volunteered to take charge. "We're like the old Abercrombie & Fitch, but on steroids. " — Russell Gordy OPPOSITE TOP: Garrett Gordy volunteered to oversee the store's fly-fishing operation. He is shown here plying his craft at the on-premise casting pond. LOWER LEFT: Gordy & Sons boasts five gunsmiths on-staff. LOWER RIGHT: The 18,000-pound vault door is a memento of Old Houston that Russell relocated from South Main Bank's shuttered downtown location.

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