The Man Behind Stratus
Who's driving the Stratus deals these days? By most accounts, it's not Jim Bob Moffett. Popular opinion holds that Tom Hicks, owner of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars, former University of Texas regent, and a big financial contributor to Gov. George W. Bush's presidential campaign, is the one calling the shots for Stratus. The Hicks connection figures pretty prominently into the Stratus scheme of things. The publicly held Austin-based company co-develops many of its properties with Dallas-based Olympus Real Estate, which is owned by Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, a Dallas investment/buyout firm of which Hicks is CEO. (Another investment firm, Ingalls & Snyder, owns about 20% of Stratus.) Olympus would no doubt be called in to help Stratus redevelop the prized -- some would say priceless -- property at the old Mueller airport, should the city decide to enter into a land swap to get the developer out of the sensitive Barton Springs zone in Southwest Austin.
One caveat: For all of Stratus' bluster and swagger at the Texas Legislature, the company's market value stands at a mere $59.9 million, according to its 1999 year-end financial statements. If a Mueller exchange ever hits the negotiating table, maybe the city should take Stratus' worth into consideration before sitting down to do any serious horse trading.