This whole mess probably could have been avoided.
If only Majestic Realty had listened to what its executive vice president told the Las Vegas Sun in 2011.
“I have three principles that I believe are necessary for relationships,” Craig Cavileer said. “They’re the same for the people you work with or work for – trust, confidence, and respect. Without those three things, you’ll never be aligned to work together.”
Now, at Billy Bob’s Texas, those three criteria are nowhere to be found, and Majestic Realty, the Los Angeles developer fixin’ to renovate the Stockyards (but not Billy Bob’s), is likely to blame.
A few years ago, Majestic ventured to Fort Worth promoting a $175 million renovation with the Hickman family, who own a big piece – about 75 acres – of the area, including a majority ownership in Billy Bob’s. Cavileer had little problem wooing Mayor Betsy Price and the Fort Worth City Council. Entrepreneurs waving around millions of dollars don’t have many problems making friends at City Hall.
Cavileer, however, met resistance from the old guard, the people not named Hickman who work, invest, and play in the Stockyards, the lovers of the Old West, fellers and gals who want the old place to be profitable and popular but not if it means throwing out all historic authenticity. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hit town for libations back in the day but never at a Starbucks. People worry when a California-based developer comes here wanting to create space for new retail, restaurants, and hotels.
Last week, a state district judge extended a court order to allow Concho Minick to continue managing the world’s largest honkytonk. Concho filed a lawsuit in May after some of the venue’s owners, including his father, Billy Minick, tried to oust him. Billy is aligned business-wise with Cavileer and the Hickman family, led by Brad Hickman, whose influence grew after his father, Holt Hickman, died in 2014 at age 82.
Concho is unified with Steve Murrin, a rancher and former Fort Worth councilmember who is sometimes referred to as the Mayor of the North Side. Murrin represents the minority ownership group of Billy Bob’s.
Concho’s effectiveness as a manager has been questioned by the majority owners. But some observers say that the real cause of the conflict goes back to the Majestic development.
The old guard got along well with Holt Hickman, who made a fortune selling automobile air-conditioners before buying up a bunch of Stockyards properties. He sometimes put profits over historic accuracy, such as when he opened a Hyatt Place hotel in 2008. But few doubted his love of the Stockyards. In 1988, Hickman practically saved the entertainment district by teaming up with old guard investors Murrin and Don Jury to buy Billy Bob’s after it had been closed. People grew to love Holt Hickman and trusted him to make his money while staying mostly true to the historic spirit.
Son Brad doesn’t inspire the same confidence among the old guard, according to the dozens we’ve spoken to in recent years. That division widened after Cavileer arrived shilling for a huge project but with little interest in hearing what the little people had to say. He didn’t favor creating a Stockyards task force to consult with other property owners and residents, and they noticed.
In 2015, Councilmember Dennis Shingleton described the tension between the two camps as: “If one side says it’s Tuesday, the other side runs to check the calendar. It’s that bad, as I perceive it.”
An old timer who asked for anonymity – he said he is friendly with everyone involved and doesn’t want to hurt any of them – blamed the split on personality differences. On one side are Cavileer and Hickman with their no-nonsense business approaches and what some people describe as arrogant attitudes, and on the other side is the friendly but fiercely loyal preservationists Murrin and Concho.
Somehow, Billy and Concho ended up on opposing sides. Both men have shown themselves to be honorable and exceptional over the years. We admire both.
Concho’s management capabilities are hard to dispute, another anonymous tipster said.
“The majority owners’ decision to fire Concho can’t be related to the way he is running the club, because Billy Bob’s is making more money than it ever has,” the tipster said.
Alcohol sales reports show that Billy Bob’s regularly dishes out more suds than other clubs or venues in Fort Worth. Alcohol proceeds jumped from about $5.8 million to $6.2 million in the past year, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Father and son are both quiet and focused, but their styles differ in some ways. Billy grew up in the Stockyards and became a professional rodeo star, first as a cowboy and bull rider and later as a big-time promoter. He’s about as close to a John Wayne character as you will find around these parts.
Concho received a master’s degree in finance at Yale University and worked in the energy industry before becoming president of Billy Bob’s in 2011.
“Billy is tough and can be intimidating,” the tipster said.
How did the divisions get this wide?
Concho “didn’t ingratiate himself to Cavileer,” the tipster said.
Cavileer, who chose not to comment for this article, didn’t ingratiate himself to anyone not already cheerleading his efforts. You can’t call him a stuck-up Californian. He grew up in Texas and graduated from Texas State University with a business administration degree in 1986. Surely he hasn’t forgotten how to hable Texan.