Who is George Kaiser?
George Kaiser is a well-known American businessman and philanthropist who currently serves as the head of the BOK Financial Corporation and the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
As one of the wealthiest individuals in the United States, he is renowned for his dedicated philanthropic work in education and healthcare. Kaiser resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he has made a significant impact on the local community through his numerous charitable endeavours.
George Kaiser Early life
George Kaiser was born on October 30, 1943, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he received his primary and secondary education and graduated from Central High School.
After high school, he earned a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College in 1964 and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1966. While he briefly considered joining the U.S. Foreign Service, he ultimately returned to Tulsa and joined his father’s company, Kaiser-Francis Oil Co.
George’s uncle and parents founded the company for Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in Germany. They settled in Oklahoma and joined Herman’s aunt and uncle’s oil drilling business.
Herman, George’s father, was a respected attorney in Berlin before the Nazi regime dismissed him due to his Jewish heritage. He and his family moved to Rostock, where he worked for his father-in-law’s company, EMSA-Werke. In 1940, they emigrated to the United States and settled in Tulsa. Herman passed away on October 14, 1992, at the age of 88, leaving behind a lasting impact on the Tulsa community.
George Kaiser Career
In 1969, following his father’s heart attack, George Kaiser assumed control of the Kaiser-Francis Oil Company. At that time, the company was a privately-owned and relatively unknown oil exploration and drilling company.
Under George’s leadership and management, the company underwent significant growth and expansion, becoming one of the top 23 non-public energy exploration companies in the United States by 2010. According to estimates by Bloomberg News, the company earned approximately $217 million in that year.
In 1990, George Kaiser acquired the Bank of Oklahoma through Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation receivership. Despite its initially disadvantaged state, the bank was substantial enough to secure Kaiser’s place on Forbes 400 list immediately.
Under his leadership, the bank expanded from a 20-branch institution with operations limited to Oklahoma to a multi-state financial institution with assets worth $23.9 billion. As of 2007, George’s ownership stake in the Bank of Oklahoma was estimated to be worth $2.3 billion.
Forbes ranked him as the 20th-richest person in America and the wealthiest in Oklahoma in 2008, with an estimated net worth of $12 billion. Despite the impact of the global economic downturn in 2009, Forbes reported that George’s net worth had decreased to $9 billion, ranking him as the 43rd-richest person in the world. However, with the recovery of financial markets, his net worth has since risen to $9.8 billion. By 2019, George’s estimated net worth was $7.6 billion.
Forbes reported George Kaiser’s net worth as $13 billion in 2023.
George Kaiser family
George Kaiser places great importance on maintaining privacy in his personal life. He has experienced the loss of his first wife, Betty Eudene, who made significant contributions to the Tulsa City County Library’s literacy program, dedicating over 7,000 hours of her time. George and Betty were blessed with three children and five grandchildren.
He is currently married to Myra Block, a woman with ties to Tulsa, through her father, a well-known oilman and philanthropist. George and Myra split their time between two homes, one in Tulsa and one in San Francisco.
George is known for his hard-working nature, regularly putting in 70 hours a week and dedicating half of his time to philanthropy. Most of his time is spent on banking, energy, and other business interests. He is a member of the Egalitarian Conservative Congregation B’nai Emunah and is known for avoiding the spotlight, declining interviews, and not attending social functions. Despite owning homes in Tulsa and San Francisco, George has no vacation homes, aeroplanes, or yachts. Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that George’s nephew, Tim Blake Nelson, is a well-known actor.
George Kaiser is a well-known philanthropist ranked as BusinessWeek’s third largest philanthropist in America in 2008. He is strongly committed to childhood education and is known for his contributions to the Jewish community in Oklahoma through the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
The foundation has provided funding for the National Energy Policy Institute and is the leading contributor to the Tulsa Community Foundation, which has grown to become the largest community foundation in the US with $4 billion in assets.
Kaiser also drew attention in 2009 for his recommendation to the Oklahoma House of Representatives to reconsider tax incentives for the oil and gas industry and redirect the funds towards healthcare, education, or tax cuts for other taxpayers.
The George Kaiser Family Foundation made important contributions to cultural institutions in Tulsa, including the Woody Guthrie Center and the acquisition of Bob Dylan’s archive. The foundation also funded Tulsa’s A Gathering Place, the largest privately funded park in the US, with a donation of $350 million.
The foundation invested $340 million in the now-defunct Solyndra Corporation in 2009, with a preference for a plant site in North Tulsa, but the plant was never built and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2011.
George Kaiser has taken the Giving Pledge, a commitment to donate half of his wealth to philanthropic causes.
The philanthropic work of George Kaiser focuses on addressing poverty and promoting economic growth through investments in early education and healthcare. He strongly supports programs such as Early Head Start and Educare and believes that those with privilege should help restore the American Dream.
The George Kaiser Family Foundation invests in early education teacher training through donations to Tulsa Community College and Oklahoma University. The foundation also attracts teachers to Tulsa through the Teach for America program.
The Kaiser Foundation acknowledged the impact of poverty on life expectancy and donated $62 million to the University of Oklahoma to establish a School of Community Medicine to address the shortage of doctors in affected areas.
The donation was supplemented by $20 million from the Schusterman family and will provide tuition coverage for students who commit to working in the community for five years after graduation.