PaperCity Magazine

February 2017 - Houston

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Page 123 of 159

W a l k i n g i n t o Minute Maid Park, Jim Crane notices a worker he doesn't rec- ognize running the cleaning ma- chine. The owner of the Houston Astros stops for a moment and quietly watches the man stop two times to pick up things by hand that the humming machine misses. Crane, a mega-millionaire with business interests all over America, would seem to have little in common with this time-card employee. But he sees something of himself in the move so he asks the man his name (Raul) and files it away. "If I see something out of whack, I'll pick it up or adjust it," Crane says later in a conference room off his office at the ballpark, not to be confused with his office across town at Crane Worldwide Logistics. "So I want to track Raul and get him some Astros tickets." Crane turns to Gene Dias, the Astros vice president of media relations, making sure Dias is writing it down and that Raul will be taken care of. Hours later, Crane is still thinking of the guy running the cleaning machine. "He was doing that job like it needed to be done," he says. "Saying thank you and giving people a pat on the back is how you keep people loyal and how you keep people motivated. The little guys matter a lot. I still consider myself a little guy." James Robert Crane is not a little guy in Houston — or anywhere else — anymore. The man who moved here in 1982, cart- ing his entire life's possessions in a small U-Haul trailer, and later needed a $10,000 loan from his sister to start his first com- pany, now travels by private jet and lords over an empire that includes Houston's Major League Baseball team, his second international shipping company and large swaths of the city's downtown. Super Vision This is Houston's Super Bowl month, but while the big game itself might be at NRG Park, much of the action takes place down- town around Discovery Green, blocks from the stadium and a section of the city that Crane is transforming. Downtown Houston is the area most likely to be permanently impacted, and Crane is doing his part to ensure there is no repeat of the post-2004 Super Bowl development letdown. He's opening two restaurants in 500 Crawford, developer Marvy Finger's new mid-rise, Super Bowl weekend (private dining only to start). Potente (the Italian translation of his youngest son James' nickname) is a white-tablecloth affair with sights set on becoming one of the finest Italian restau- rants in America. Osso & Kristalla (named after his son Jared and daughter Krystal's nicknames) is a more casual all-day cafe. This is a very personal project for Crane, and it shows. "Hey, I'm right here," Crane says, look- ing out his office window, toward the build site, "and I'll walk over there for lunch. If something's not right, I'll see it." 82 AS THE Crane Flies Jim Crane, the hard-charging, self-made mega-millionaire owner of the Astros, can back up an 18-wheeler, run a jackhammer, call up Obama, and iron a shirt. Chris Baldwin discusses the above, baseball, and the Super Bowl. Jim Crane at Minute Maid Park ALEX BIERENS DE HAAN (continued on page 84)

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