Texas Monthly looks inside King Ranch

July 24th, 2007

The August issue of Texas Monthly features an article on the future of the famed King Ranch. According to executive editor S. C. Gwynne, he is one a handful of journalists privy to details about the family-owned business in its 154-year history.

Founded as a cattle operation by Captain Richard King in 1853, the ranch became a 15-million-acre global cattle and oil empire under King’s grandson, Robert Kleberg Jr., who ran the ranch from 1917 to 1974. Following Kleberg’s death, King Ranch struggled for direction in a changing economy. While some family members sold out their interests, those who remained looked for new ways to preserve the ranch’s legacy and expand its business horizons.

The article delves into the ranch’s family dynamics, as well as the new era of non-family chairmen, presidents and CEOs, and is full of interesting details. For instance, the 1,300 square-mile ranch in South Texas, once home to 95,000 cows, has opened its gates to commercial hunting and is today one of the premier game areas in the country, with more biologists and hunting guides on its payroll than cowboys. With 36,000 acres of orange groves in Florida, King Ranch is also the largest citrus grower in the US, with twice as many employees as the Texas ranches.

The article is accompanied by a genealogical guide to the King and Kleberg heirs mentioned in the story, as well as historical and current photos. A slide show of Kurt Markus’s evocative photos of the ranch is available at TexasMonthly.com. The code to access Texas Monthly’s August articles online is “Irving.”