Cash and Clout

Austin billionaire named one of the most influential business leaders under 40

Austin billionaire named one of the most influential leaders under 40

Bryan Sheffield Parsley Energy President CEO
Bryan Sheffield lands on Fortune's 40 Under 40. Photo courtesy of Parsley Energy

An Austin billionaire whose name you may not know has been crowned one of the most influential business leaders under age 40.

Fortune magazine puts 39-year-old Bryan Sheffield, founder, chairman, and CEO of Austin-based oil and gas company Parsley Energy, at No. 30 on its new 40 Under 40 list. It’s Sheffield’s first time to appear on this list.

Topping this year’s 40 Under 40 is French President Emmanuel Macron. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, is just behind Macron at No. 2.

Sheffield, whose net worth is estimated at $1.3 billion, isn’t the only Austin billionaire who’s appeared on the Fortune list. In 1999, computer mogul Michael Dell debuted at the top spot in the 40 Under 40 ranking. Dell has since graduated from the list, as he’s now 52 years old.

Sheffield started his company in 2008 after taking over 109 oil wells that his maternal grandfather, Joe Parsley, had drilled around Midland in the 1960s and ’70s, according to Forbes magazine.

Sheffield’s company “picked up more leases for a song during the brief price crash of 2009,” Forbes says.

By early 2014, Sheffield, aided by higher oil prices and technological advances in oil drilling, had grown the company enough to take the company public, according to Forbes. At the time, he held a 20 percent stake in the company, and the IPO made him a billionaire.

Later in 2014, the oil market tanked, Forbes says, and Sheffield lost millions of dollars in wealth on paper.

“Yet while dozens of other oil companies have gone bankrupt, Parsley has thrived,” Forbes says. “It turns out old Grandpa Joe’s wells were smack dab in what’s now considered to be the best place left to drill for oil in America.”

Today, Sheffield owns about 15 percent of Parsley Energy’s stock.

“Optimism — the ability to view challenges as opportunities — has buoyed Parsley Energy during the inevitable tough times,” Sheffield tells Fortune.