Jim Bob Moffett, the cheeky son of an oil worker who built Freeport-McMoRan Inc. in a Fortune 500 company in New Orleans in the 1980s and 1990s and acting as an engine in local civil and business affairs, he died of complications from COVID-19 on Friday in Austin, Texas, his son said. He was 82 and had been ill for several years.
“He was bigger than life,” said Daryl Berger, a major real estate investor and civic leader in New Orleans.
A geologist with a master’s degree from Tulane University, able to withstand a little sleep, Moffett used his strong personality, willingness to take big risks and deep understanding of the oil, gas and minerals business to run a company he found in 1988. the world’s largest gold mine and one of the largest copper mines in Indonesia. He was a major philanthropist in New Orleans and Austin, and also a regular target of environmentalists in Louisiana, Texas and Indonesia.
In New Orleans, Moffett, who had grown up poor in Texas, shook up unadulterated ways of doing business in a city where CEOs usually came from old carnival clubs and social clubs. He founded the Business Council in the mid-1980s to more decisively present business views on the main social and economic issues of Political Leaders’ Day.
“Jim Bob has been the most respected and well-known man in the last five decades, making a difference in business,” said Bill Goldring, a liquor mogul and philanthropist in New Orleans whose father, Stephen, helped Moffett set up a business council. “He was strong with skill and never said that nothing could be done. He pushed the boundaries of everything he touched. He was in your face when he knew something was right and needed to be done. He kept insisting on doing so. “
Moffett explains his philosophy of business – and indeed of life – in a 1995 interview: “When I walk into a conference room with lawyers and accountants, they will tell me, ‘You know, no one has done this before,'” I said. “It’s not a plug for the show for me. It doesn’t have to be a stopper on the show.
“As long as you’re convinced you’re right about things, you need to feel comfortable enough, even when you’re talking about pretty big numbers and some pretty big things. … If you believe in who you are and if you know that you can do things that other people can’t and if you’re confident enough to take a new path, it really creates assets that are different. “
James Robert Moffett was born in Home in 1938 and lived in Golden Meadow until he was 5, when his father disappeared and his mother moved him and his sister to Houston. Moffett won a scholarship to play football and study geology at the University of Texas, but found that his studies limited his ability to play ball. Still, he became a favorite of the legendary Longhorns coach, Daryl Royal, for whom he played in wrestling.
Moffett then returned to Louisiana and learned the ropes, working for an independent oil and gas company. In 1969, he created McMoRan with Ken McWilliams and BM Rankin. Moffett was the architect of the 1981 merger with Freeport Minerals, a larger company based in New York, and insisted that the combined company be located in the New Orleans area, which is closer to the oil fields.
In 1984, at a time when large oil and gas companies still had a large presence in New Orleans, Moffett moved the company’s headquarters from Metairie to a new office tower at 1615 Poydras Street opposite the Superdome. The building has been called Freeport-McMoRan for more than three decades.
Freeport-McMoRan remained in New Orleans until 2007, when the merger led to the company’s relocation to Phoenix. Moffett resigned as chairman in 2015. Until then, some of his investment bets had not been paid.
Moffett was particularly active in New Orleans when Sidney Barthelemy was mayor from 1986 to 1994. Barelemi found Moffett a more desirable partner than most other businessmen at a time when a sharp drop in oil prices was devastating New Orleans’ economy. City Hall Finance. He agreed to support bond refinancing, which provided the city with $ 35 million to pay for travel, parks and libraries.
Jim Bob Moffett will step down as chairman of Freeport-McMoRan
“He was really good, a good man and willing to help,” Barthelemy said. “It was a huge advantage for the city.”
Moffett has prompted Freeport to donate millions of dollars to libraries, parks, summer jobs for children, the New Orleans Opera and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, among others, said Cindy Molinho, who headed the company’s foundation.
“He was a giant man for New Orleans and Louisiana,” said Ron Foreman, president and CEO of the Audubon Institute of Nature. The institute manages the Audubon Freeport-McMoRan Species Survival Center in the Lower Coast of Algeria, where endangered species can breed. Freeport set the project with $ 10 million.
Not all of Moffett’s efforts in Louisiana succeeded. One of the main efforts was his impetus to revise the tax laws of the state, which he and his supporters, including the then government. Be Roemer, called “fiscal reform.” Voters in Louisiana rejected the measure after opponents said it would raise taxes on individuals.
The day after Roemer lost the gubernatorial primary in 1991 – and former governor Edwin Edwards and white supreme authority David Duke advanced to the runoff – Moffett called Edwards to promise support and gather businessmen behind him.
Moffett has repeatedly complained to environmentalists that he is turning a blind eye to company projects that have poisoned water and soil.
For example, Freeport Chemicals wanted to dump two giant stacks of radioactive gypsum waste in St. James Parish on the Mississippi River in the late 1980s, but government officials stopped the company. These piles, now owned by Mosaic Fertilizers, remain and have polluted groundwater, said Wilma Subra, a technical adviser to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.
“This is a legacy that will exist forever and ever,” Subra said.
Freeport has also been widely criticized that its giant mine in Indonesia has contaminated the soil and that the company, along with the Indonesian government, its business partner, has tortured and killed local opponents of the mass project. The company denied these allegations.
Moffett is survived by his wife, Lori Moffett of Austin; children James “Bubba” Moffett Jr. of Phoenix and New Orleans, Crystal Moffett Lourd of Los Angeles, Jordan Moffett of Austin and Corina Moffett of Austin; and six grandchildren.
“He was my hero,” said Buba Moffett, president of Crescent Crown Distributing, a beer and beverage distributor in southern Louisiana and Phoenix.
As a young man, Moffett became a big fan of Elvis Presley. During the occasional Rod Rod Lincoln show, a local band that included Berger and other businessmen, he wore Elvis clothes – a white suit, long scarves, big sunglasses – and jumped on stage to sing a few Presley numbers, usually ” Blue Suede Shoes and Dog Dog.
“He was a real showman and he was pretty good at it,” Berger said.
Moffett liked to note that he was born on the same date, August 16, that Presley died in 1977.
He died at Seton Hospital in Austin while listening to Presley’s songs on Presley’s birthday.