When John Goff first showed up in Fort Worth from Houston, he brought along a U-Haul trailer with all of his belongings. He only knew a few people and wasn’t entirely sure where his career would take him.
Now, over 40 years later, his career has taken him to the Fort Worth Exchange Club as the recipient of the Golden Deeds Award, given to a person or organization the club considers its most outstanding citizen that year. The Exchange Club is a service club for business and professional men and women that focuses on community service. The Fort Worth club was founded in 1924. .
Amon Carter, the late Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher and civic promoter, was the first recipient of the Golden Deeds Award.
Goff will receive his award at an Exchange Club program on May 10.
“I consider Fort Worth, even though I didn’t grow up here, I consider it my hometown,” Goff said in an interview with the Fort Worth Report. “I really want to try and leave it in a better place. I feel a real obligation to give back and so I’m trying to do it any way I can.
If Goff were to name one key moment in his career, it could work at the City Club in his early days in Fort Worth. The training was good, but it was a chance encounter with another Fort Worth legend, the late Richard Rainwater, that set the then public accountant on a different career path.
Goff knew he wanted to be an investor and not work in public accounting his entire career.
“Nothing wrong with accounting. It’s a great way to learn about the business, but I knew I wanted to get involved in other ways,” she said.
Rainwater was working for Bass Family Enterprises at the time and Goff with a large accounting firm. Rainwater soon struck out on his own and asked Goff to join him. In June of 1987, Goff did, though he wasn’t sure what they were going to do.
Opportunity came knocking in the stock market crash of October 1987. Rainwater earmarked $50 million from a partnership he controlled and told Goff to put the money to work.
“That’s literally all the direction he’s given me. I was scared shitless,” Goff said. “I’d like to think he thought I was really smart and a great investor, but the reality was, I think he knew the market was so oversold that any dummy could go put money to work then, and it would have worked.”
The investments worked out well.
“Richard knew I could tear apart a cash flow statement — with the background I had — as well as anyone else, so he trusted me on that front,” Goff said. “That was kind of my start.”
Goff said his work with Rainwater has involved working with some heavyweights in business, politics and sports.
Former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Roger Staubach’s estate was having some debt problems, and Rainwater loaned Goff to Staubach to help fix those problems. Staubach eventually sold his company to JLL for over $600 million.
Rainwater and Goff eventually founded Crescent Real Estate. Goff had sketched out a plan to start a real estate company. Rainwater agreed, but Goff would have to put all of his net worth into the venture.
“I didn’t have that much then,” Goff said.
The company was successful, eventually going public in 1994 in the largest initial public offering of a real estate investment trust to date.
Along the way, Crescent Real Estate has also worked to improve the communities it serves by initiating a program to adopt schools to serve at-risk students.
The society has also initiated a scholarship program for unofficial members of the society. The Goff Family Foundation works with local schools through its B Sharp Music Foundation, which helps students with music and other skills.
In 2007, Crescent Real Estate was acquired by Morgan Stanley for $6.7 billion. About two years later, when there was a market downturn, Goff was able to repurchase Crescent Real Estate. Crescent Real Estate now has assets valued at more than $10 billion.
And, Goff is proud to say, he’s bringing the Crescent name home to Fort Worth with the Crescent Fort Worth Hotel and Crescent Offices, opening later this year in the Cultural District.
“I love driving to the museums and I love driving down Camp Bowie and then up to 7th Street,” Goff said. “It’s really what makes Fort Worth, the entire epicenter of our cultural district, tick. It really sets the city apart. It’s unique.”
But he always wondered why the land in front of the Kimbell Art Museum was never built on. Some developers had come up with some ideas, but they never came to fruition.
“That location deserved, in my opinion, a much better and more classy hotel,” Goff said. “And the city was really ready for it.”
Fort Worth businesswoman and philanthropist Mary Ralph Lowe had the land under contract. She was a neighbor. Over a beer, Lowe agreed to sell the land to Goff so she could build a hotel and office complex. There was a stipulation. The hotel was to have a bar named after her father, the oilman Ralph Lowe.
“When we open the hotel, we’re going to have a beer together at Ralph’s,” Goff said.
While Goff worked to bring the Crescent home to Fort Worth, he was also asked to co-direct Fort Worth Now, an organization created by then Mayor Betsy Price to attract businesses to the city.
Working with city and business officials, as well as Texas A&M Law School Dean Bobby Ahdieh, Goff began working to increase the university’s commitment to the city.
When he learned that Fort Worth was the largest city in the country without a Tier 1 or research university, Goff said, he realized that getting a bigger commitment from Texas A&M University was key to the city’s economic future. . Luckily, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp was on board.
“This is their largest engagement outside of College Station,” Goff said. “It’s a big deal for them and, I know I’ve said this before, but it’s true: It’s a game changer for the city.”
The $350 million Texas A&M-Fort Worth campus hasn’t opened its doors yet, but Goff believes it has a once-in-a-lifetime impact.
“This will, in my view, have the greatest possible impact on the city over the next 50 to 100 years,” he said. “It will attract a lot of industries and it’s already starting.”
As chair of Fort Worth Now’s successor entity, the Fort Worth Tarrant County Innovation Partnership, Goff will work to ensure Texas A&M’s investment pays off for the school and the city.
Goff said he’s excited to be involved as the city grows.
“I think Fort Worth is at a point where it’s really defining itself for the next century, and it’s taking all the benefits of what has made it such a unique and such an authentic city,” he said.
“I think we’ll see more companies move to Fort Worth,” Goff said. “I think Fort Worth is really coming into its own and it’s one of the reasons we’re one of the fastest growing cities in the country.”
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at [email protected].
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