George Kaiser, whose parents fled Nazi Germany for the Oklahoma oil patch, was already a billionaire before Russia invaded Ukraine and threw the global energy market into turmoil.
Still, a well-timed initial public offering of his Excelerate Energy Inc., which raised $384 million on Tuesday at a valuation of $2.5 billion, has added $1.2 billion to his fortune and boosted his net worth to $9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Shares of The Woodlands, Texas-based liquefied natural gas company were scheduled to begin trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.
"We've been focused on providing energy to markets for a long time," Chief Executive Officer Steven Kobos said Wednesday in an interview. "We feel we're at a great point in time after nearly 20 years."
The Biden administration last month said it planned to export 15 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe this year to help countries slash Russian imports, but getting the fuel across the Atlantic Ocean is no small feat.
It's a complex process that requires cooling the gas to about -260 degrees Fahrenheit (-162 degrees Celsius), which liquefies it, then loading it onto specialized ships. Once at its destination, the cargo is warmed and converted back into gas.
Excelerate, which Kaiser founded in 2003, controls a fifth of the world's fleet of 46 floating storage and re-gasification units, or FSRUs, which can handle the conversion while anchored offshore. The vessels are either built-to-order or converted from older LNG tankers, and can be installed in a matter of months, while onshore import terminals require additional infrastructure and take years to build.
"One of our vessels is delivering four-and-a-half-million tons through a single FSRU," Kobos said. "That's re-gasifying more than 1% of total current LNG production."
Several European nations are already making plans to acquire such vessels. Last week, Finland and Estonia announced they would be jointly renting an FSRU to supply the Baltic countries with gas.
Last year, Excelerate generated $41 million of income on sales of $888.6 million. About half of that revenue came from its FSRU and terminal services businesses, with the remainder from buying and re-selling gas.
Excelerate is Kaiser's second major energy holding. His biggest asset is Kaiser-Francis Oil, a Tulsa-based independent oil and gas exploration company founded by his father. The younger Kaiser took over the business in 1969 after earning an undergraduate degree and an MBA from Harvard University.
Since then, Kaiser, 79, has built it into a major independent oil and gas producer. According to data from energy research site ShaleXP.com, it produces about 26,000 barrels of oil and 117,000 MCF of gas a day.
"He's bullish on our strategy," Kobos said of Kaiser. "That's evidenced by the fact that this IPO is not a liquidity event."
A spokesperson for Kaiser declined to comment.
Kaiser controls all of Excelerate's Class B voting shares, giving him 77% of the company's total combined voting power. The George Kaiser Family Foundation will control another 7.9%. It's receiving shares in Excelerate in exchange for two FSRU ships it owns.
The foundation is active in the Tulsa area and reported $3.7 billion in net assets at the end of 2019. While Kaiser isn't an Excelerate officer, he can appoint three of six directors and holds certain other rights through a shareholder agreement with the firm. In the event of Kaiser's death, those rights will transfer to his foundation for five years.