But Harold Hamm does. Hamm, 64, is founder and chief executive of Oklahoma-based Continental Resources. By dint of his 73% ownership of Continental, which he took public in 2007, it can safely be said that Hamm directly owns more oil and natural gas than any other American. How much? At least 190 million barrels of oil and natural gas equivalents. Forbes asked Hamm what's it like to be the man with the most oil and gas in America. "It's unfortunate that our industry has sunk to that low," he cracks.
For a nation that gave birth to the industry, it's a surprise that there are so few oil and gas billionaires here. Gone are the larger-than-life oil barons like JD Rockefeller or J Paul Getty.
In compiling our list of America's richest energy tycoons, we looked for those who actively control oil and gas assets (including pipelines and refineries). That meant weeding out billionaires' sons like David Rockefeller and Gordon Getty, as well as oil and gas legends like George Mitchell, who sold his company for a big slug of passively held Devon Energy stock. What's left are just 20 oil and gas billionaires.
Hamm isn't the richest of the bunch - that honour goes to the Koch brothers, David and Charles, whose conglomerate Koch industries has enormous holdings in pipelines and refineries.
Yet Hamm, a self-made wildcatter, is a bright spot in an industry suffering a public relations nightmare.
Unlike BP and the other big dogs, he doesn't have any assets at all in the Gulf of Mexico. All his assets are onshore.
In fact, greater scrutiny and regulation over offshore drilling could end up benefiting Hamm, driving up the prices for his onshore fields as erstwhile offshore players move to instead deploy their dollars on land. "I think we'll have a big increase in onshore development," says Hamm.
Most of his billionaire peers on our list are similarly land-based.
George Kaiser, Tim Headington, Jeffrey Hildebrand, Trevor Rees-Jones, Lynn Schusterman, T Boone Pickens, the Bass Brothers: Their oil and gas fields are almost entirely onshore in promising new plays like the Marcellus Shale, the Eagle Ford Shale and Hamm's hot spot, the Bakken Shale.
WA (Tex) Moncrief made big news earlier this year for his stake in an offshore discovery at the Davy Jones prospect - but that well was drilled in the shallow water. "That out there in the deep water is for the big boys," says Charlie Moncrief, Tex's son.
Hamm has more than half his bounty in the Bakken, which stretches from North Dakota into Montana.
Unlike most of the big shale plays, which are predominately natural gas, the Bakken gives up mostly oil.
Estimates of reserves in the Bakken have jumped from 4 billion barrels of oil a year ago to more than 8 billion barrels now, thanks in large part to Continental's finds. Analysts at IHS-CERA figure that given a decade of development the Bakken could be yielding 1 million barrels per day of oil and gas, up from 150,000 bpd today. A million bpd is approximately how much we can currently get from the Gulf of Mexico.
Hamm controls 800,000 acres in the 7-million-acre play.
Others with big positions include Hess and Marathon Oil.
Dallas billionaire Tim Headington made most of his fortune selling 350,000 acres in the Bakken to XTO Energy (since bought by ExxonMobil in 2008).
Continental, at a market value of $10 billion or so, could be a nice acquisition for a supermajor chased out of the deep water. Except he's not selling.
"When all those folks come up from the Gulf, we want them to find that the last acres have just been leased," says Hamm with a smile.
Image: Koch Brothers
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