A report released by Forbes Magazine listed the 2,755 billionaires in the world. Of this 2,55 two of them live in Hattiesburg. Let's take a look at the two people who can count themselves, members of the exclusive Hattiesburg Billionaires Club,
The Hattiesburg Billionaires Club
James and Thomas Duff co-founded and own Duff Capital Investors. Due to this, they are both worth $1.4 billion- which places them at 2141 globally. The Duffs have grown their business empire to include 18 businesses, over 10,000 employees, and an annual turnover of $2.6 billion. Their enterprises include T.L. Wallace Construction, truck-tire dealer Southern Tire Mart, wood chip hauler Forest Products Transport, Pine Belt Ford, and Pine Belt Chevrolet, T.K. Stanley Oilfield Services, refrigerated trucking firm KLLM Transport Services, Southern Insurance Group, and Frozen Food Express. The businesses are spread across the United States, and the brothers spend a lot of time traveling and visiting their offices.
The Duffs got their start through their father Ernest, who started a tire business- Southern Tire in 1973. Both boys worked there as teenagers and took over running the company in 1983 when it was struggling to pay bills. For a time, they worked without pay as they sought to improve the business. Finally, they revitalized the business and by 1997 had revenue of $140 million- this enticed an acquisition from an Iowa company named Bandag.
They both worked for Bandag; however, James soon quit, and then Thomas was fired. Showing their shrewd business sense, the brothers bought back the company in 2003 for $15 million and have since built Southern Tire into a $1 billion business. This has been their modus operandi ever since- finding businesses that struggle to buy them at an undervalued price and then rebuilding them.
The brothers are big football fans and have donated over $5 million to Tom's alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
In 2015, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant chose Thomas to represent the Second (Southern) Supreme Court District.
The kidnap and murder plot
Being wealthy does have its downsides. For example, in November 2016, three men were arrested when the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation uncovered a murder plot to kill Thomas Duff.
They were found with ski masks, fake beards and mustaches, duct tape, and zip ties and had a plan to kidnap, assault and kill the Hattiesburg billionaire. Fortunately for Thomas, one man who was supposed to be a part of the kidnap attempt called him and warned him of the plan, potentially saving his life.
“My life’s totally changed. Every time I open my garage door I have a gun in my hand.” Thomas Duff
It is no surprise that the Duff brothers keep a relatively low profile and very rarely give media interviews.
The Duff brothers are not just the only two billionaires in Hattiesburg but the only two in Mississippi. Hattiesburg is a long way behind New York City, which boasts 99 billionaires- the most of any city in the United States.
Let's hope that more people in Hattiesburg can join the billionaires club in 2022!
Readers, have any of you met the Duff brothers? What were they like? As always, please leave your comments in the section below.