Rich Kids: The Fertitta Family

Fertitta Children Add To Family's Financial Empire

On an $8 million yacht in the Gulf of Mexico, it's spring break for four of the luckiest kids in America.

The captain of the ship, Tilman Fertitta, is a man worth over $200 million.

"First thing you have to do is work hard and win," says Tilman, 46, the CEO of Landry's, a billion-dollar empire of amusement parks and family eateries based in Houston. "It's a dream, but it was able to happen."

A few years ago, Kemah, Texas, was a run-down fishing village. But Tilman turned it into a playground that two million kids and parents now visit every year.

Did he use consultants? "We don't use consultants at Landry's," says Tilman. "We're our consultants."

He may not have consultants, but he does consult people - quite literally his own people. While designing his restaurants and other businesses, he finds some of his biggest money-making ideas in the family room, where he has his own personal group of experts.

Who are they? His children - Blake, Blayne, Patrick and Michael. Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports on this story that first aired last June.

Tilman figured if his children liked trains, other kids would too. So he built one in Kemah and it became a success. He charged $2 dollars a ride.

"Instead of going and riding in someone else's train, we're going to have our own trains to go ride. But we're also going to take a few hundred thousand people a year with us," says Tilman.

He decided to build another train at his aquarium in downtown Houston – an odd combination of trains and sharks. "That's what kids like," says Tilman. "I've got four of them. You know, even my little girl loves this."

The trains that the Fertitta children inspired bring in $7 million a year. So Tilman listened closely when his son Patrick announced he liked the volcano at a Las Vegas casino. "It was really cool seeing the volcano erupt and not really kill anybody," says Patrick.

Soon, Fertitta's Rainforest Café in Galveston had a new attraction.
Some 700,000 people a year come and eat in Fertitta's restaurant, or shop in Fertittta's store, or take Fertitta's adventure ride.

His kids have sometimes disagreed with the grownups he's paying. For instance, he built a fountain in Newport Beach, Calif., because his children loved the idea, even though his managers didn't.

"They said, 'Tilman, we don't need to spend $250,000 on a fountain.' And I said, 'You watch how these kids come play in this fountain,'" remembers Tilman. Lucky for them, the fountain was a hit.

The kids are not on the payroll yet, but they've earned a few perks. There's the yacht, and they live in a kid-friendly mansion that has an arcade, a movie theater and some pretty fancy parties.

But mother Paige Fertitta tries to remind her four children where the family's fortune comes from. "Their friends are getting older so they're making comments. Kids ask them, 'Why do you live in such a big house? How did you get to be so rich?'"

"I try to talk to them about Tilman," adds Paige. "He works hard. He's been fortunate. He's been successful, but they see how hard he works."

Still, the more fun Tilman's children have, the more they help him get it right - as a father and a businessman.

"I guess if you sit there and look at it, we have a very successful company today," says Tilman. "And the kids have had an influence on it, so I guess you could say it's been worth millions and millions of dollars."