Although every publication seems like it’s an entity unto itself, free of outside influences and sways, there is often a wealthy individual at the helm of the writing ship. Randa Duncan Williams, an oil and gas heiress from Texas, is the latest to join these journalistic captains, the ranks of which already include Jeff Bezos and Laurene Powell Jobs. Williams will take over Texas Monthly magazine in just five days, on June 30, from current owner Paul Hobby.
The details of the deal, including the exact price of the sale, have been kept under wraps. Neither the seller, the buyer, nor their experienced lawyers who number among the 70,000 licensed attorneys practicing in Texas have disclosed the specifics. As Hobby bought the magazine in 2016 for a hefty $25 million, the recent change of hands likely came with a similar, price tag, if not higher. At the time, Hobby led private equity investors from Genesis Park to purchase the magazine.
No matter what the price was, fellow Houstonian Williams isn’t likely to be financially strained in the aftermath of investing in the award-winning publication. Forbes lists Williams as the 290th wealthiest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $6.4 billion. This amount also places her in the ninth spot on Forbes’s list of the wealthiest Texans. The billionaire will reportedly run the National Magazine of Texas through Enterprise Partners Co., but has shown quite a bit of enthusiasm nonetheless.
“I have been an avid Texas Monthly reader since I was a teenager. My family is delighted to provide the resources to support this iconic Texas institution, which is nationally recognized for its editorial flair,” Williams said in a statement.
Her family was certainly influential in Williams’s ability to purchase the beloved publication. She is the daughter of Dan Duncan, the late co-founder of Enterprise Products Partners, a crude oil and natural gas pipeline company. With the horizontal directional drilling market alone expecting to reach $14.95 billion by 2022, the Duncan family was able to capitalize on the crude oil market as a whole to build their wealth. Williams officially joined the company in 1994 and today holds the position of non-executive chairman of the board.
Williams isn’t alone as a wealthy descendant of a family who found success through the energy market in Texas. Richard Kinder, who holds the spot as the fifth wealthiest person in Texas, cofounded gas pipeline giant Kinder Morgan in 1997. As the eleventh wealthiest Texan, Ray Lee Hunt inherited oil and gas money from father H.L. Hunt. His son, Hunter, has since dived into electric power investment, which powers devices like air compressors that turn as much as 80% to 90% of their electrical energy into heat. With 49,000 miles of pipeline, Williams and Enterprise Products Partners rely on their pipeline empire rather than diversifying into other forms of energy.
Diversifying into the media industry, however, is the new venture Williams has chosen. This investment won’t come without its unique challenges. In recent years, many publishing businesses traditionally based on printed media have downsized, consolidated, or even completely shut down in the face of successful digital media. Despite 81% of businesses believing that blog content is an essential strategy for their business, content in a printed form is not attracting the audience many publications need. To offset a seemingly imminent decline, Texas Monthly made efforts to modernize its editorial operations and business practices under Hobby’s ownership.
The changes proved to be relatively successful. The total audience of the nationally-hailed publication has grown by 76% since late 2016. Although print ad revenue has declined in the last two years, digital revenue has grown from 8% of ad sales to 20% in that same time period. The magazine turned further towards modern forms of media by introducing new podcasts and live events such as EDGE: The Texas Monthly Festival.
Williams hopes to continue these forward external efforts as well as internal efforts to boost the long-term investments in the editorial staff at Texas Monthly. In this way, Williams will be able to support Americans in journalism much as she has supported many of the 3 million Americans employed in the natural gas industry. By focusing on the continuation of the publication’s high-quality storytelling and its efforts in reaching audiences through the most popular platforms, Williams intends to demonstrate her commitment to the magazine’s success.
“She wants to own it forever. She is committed to a long-term investment, and that is a great opportunity for us to adopt a set of long-range business drivers,” said Texas Monthly president Scott Brown of Williams.