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Perry Bass, 91; Texas Oil Heir Invested Well and Gave Generously

June 02, 2006|From the Associated Press

FORT WORTH — Perry Richardson Bass, who turned a small fortune from his oil wildcatter uncle into a larger fortune with a series of smart investments and then became a prominent philanthropist, died Thursday. He was 91.

The family issued a statement saying that Bass died peacefully at home after a lifetime of "remarkable accomplishment and joy."

Forbes magazine estimated Bass' net worth at $1 billion last year and ranked him No. 746 on its list of wealthiest Americans.

Like other family members, Bass did not court publicity. They had a longtime policy of declining to discuss their investments or their history in the energy industry.

Bass was one of the last remaining links to a colorful era in Texas history, when wildcatters struck it rich in what were then some of the world's great oil fields.

Born in Wichita Falls, Texas, on Nov. 11, 1914, Bass earned his bachelor's degree at Yale. In the 1940s and 1950s, he worked alongside his uncle, Sid Williams Richardson, who made significant oil discoveries. When he died, Richardson, a bachelor, left several million dollars to his nephew.

Family members, especially Bass' four sons, increased their wealth many times over through shrewd stock investments in energy, entertainment and other industries in the 1980s. Forbes ranked Perry Bass' four sons -- Robert, Lee, Sid and Edward -- as even wealthier than their father.

The Basses also suffered setbacks. In 2001, they were forced to sell about $2 billion of their Walt Disney Co. stock to cover margin calls or loans used to buy other stock.

In December, the family sold one of its last major energy holdings, pipeline operator Sid Richardson Energy Services Co., for $1.6 billion in cash.

Bass was a major philanthropist in Fort Worth and nationally. In 1991, on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, Bass and his wife, Nancy Lee Bass, gave $1 million each to 50 different institutions. Officials with the National Gallery of Art called the gift "a staggering gesture in the history of philanthropy."

The couple also donated millions to Texas museums and music halls.

Bass served as chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

He is survived by his wife and four sons.

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