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It Pays to Own an Energy Pipeline. Thanks, Tax Code

A Texas oilman made billions with help from a little-known tax break
Richard Kinder now controls 75,000 miles of pipeline
Richard Kinder now controls 75,000 miles of pipelinePhotograph by Richard Carson/Reuters

Getting stiffed for the top job at Enron was the best thing that ever happened to Richard Kinder. In 1996, Kinder, then the company’s president, was beaten out for the chief executive slot by his college buddy Kenneth Lay. So Kinder struck out on his own. He and a partner, Bill Morgan, paid $40 million to acquire “sleepy, old pipelines” from Enron, which was shifting its focus from delivering energy to trading gas and power.

As Enron collapsed in scandal, Kinder embarked on a 15-year buying spree, acquiring dozens of other pipelines. That’s made him the richest man in Houston, with a fortune the Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates at $10 billion. (Morgan retired in 2003.) Kinder Morgan Energy Partners and its related companies now control 75,000 miles of pipelines, enough to circle the globe three times. It’s the third-largest energy business in the U.S., behind ExxonMobil and Chevron.