In a city of big oil, big hats and big hair, it's not easy to hide a very, very big fortune, but billionaire Elaine Marshall has managed just that. Until now, that is. The heir to J. Howard Marshall's billions has been discovered living discreetly in Dallas. The 70-year-old has strenuously avoided the spotlight, in marked contrast to her father-in-law, who made a spectacle of himself when he married Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith, a woman who was 63 years his junior.
Marshall's marriage in 1994 accomplished a number of things -- not the least of which included turning an octogenarian oil tycoon into tabloid fodder -- including tying the family's wealth up in court battles for the next 16 years, long after his death. Multiple variations of the dispute bounced up and down through the courts before it was resolved that Marshall's US$12-billion estate belonged to his son, E. Pierce Marshall.
Of course, nothing is ever that simple and the various sides continued to battle; daunted neither by shame nor death itself. Anna Nicole Smith exited in 2007, E. Pierce Marshall would step out a year earlier, leaving his widow, Elaine Tettemer Marshall as the last one standing.
Wal-Mart scions and the heir to the Mars Bar billions.For the last six years, quietly she has stood, seeking none of the infamy that has surrounded her family and its fortune. But as she's discovering now, it's hard to remain anonymous when you're the fourth-richest woman in the U.S., surpassed only by the
The source of Marshall's wealth only adds to the intrigue. The 70-year-old reportedly owns close to 15 per cent of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the U.S.
(Howard Marshall could be brilliant as well as boneheaded. If marrying a 26-year-old former stripper at the age of 89 reflected questionable judgment, swapping a stake in his oil business with Koch senior in 1959 for stock instead of cash was a call that proved more profitable with each passing year).
Koch's sprawling empire controls everything from pulp and paper mills to fertilizer factories to fuel terminals. If it's deeply unsexy and makes tons of money, chances are, Koch Industries is involved. Annual sales exceed US$110 billion.
Koch's majority owners are brothers Charles and David Koch, famed supporters of conservative Republicans, who each own a 42-per cent share in the business, putting their net worth at US$37.7-billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index. It was the remaining ownership that left many question marks: Either the operation was owned by multiple interests -- unlikely for a private company -- or one person might be sitting on a significant piece of the action.
When Bloomberg's researchers began digging, their research led them to Texas, where the assets of the Marshall brood had received multiple airings, and where it was now well known that at least some of the wealth came from Koch.
If she was laying low before, finding her name in the headlines has done nothing to change her stance. Through her spokesperson David Margulies, Marshall is reported as saying only "This is ridiculous, but it doesn't affect me or affect how I live. I will continue to live my life as I always have."