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Self-Made Texan / Energetic Broker Loya Personifies American Dream

By Dale Robertson
2002-05-15

JAVIER Loya , the second-youngest of seven children whose mother and father first entered the United States illegally from Mexico, grew up dreaming the American dream with all the energy a kid could muster.

He played football and worshipped the Dallas Cowboys, but realized early on that, even in a land of such great opportunity, not every goal is achievable. Hope and hard work weren't enough to gain Javier a spot on the Cowboys' roster.

So he adjusted his sights. Instead, he got an Ivy League education (Columbia, class of '91), founded a successful oil-and-gas brokerage firm, made millions and, at the age of 33, bought himself a piece of the Texans from Bob McNair, whose father never had earned more than subsistence wages.

Yes, it is a great country. Only in America . . . .

The Javier Alger story should be a reminder to those who think closing our borders tight is a solution to our problems. In the crude, cruel idiom of the day, Miguel and Ana Loya were "wetbacks." Yet people like them, people who took the risk of sneaking across the Rio Grande - or crowding into rusty trans-Atlantic steamships - while asking only for a chance to better their lot, are America's spine.

The families of Loya 's parents had been displaced during the Mexican Revolution and became impoverished. But although neither Miguel, who rose from loading trucks to being a plant supervisor at the Farah Manufacturing Co. in El Paso, nor Ana went to high school, they were adamant their children put education first.

"That's all we ever heard at the dinner table," Javier says.

The Loya brood listened carefully, too. The oldest, Mike, has an MBA from Harvard and the president of Vitol SA, a London-based oil-and-gas trading company that's among the world's largest. Fernando, who won the Mexican equivalent of the Heisman Trophy as a ballhawking free safety for the University of Nuevo Leon, is a dentist in Austin. Anna is a teacher in El Paso. Irma, a Notre Dame graduate, was recently honored as the small-business person of the year in Alabama, where she founded an engineering consulting firm.

Raul, who has a Rice degree and played football for the Owls in the mid-'80s, is an attorney in Dallas. And Mario, who was Javier 's All-Ivy League teammate at Columbia, is a financial analyst for a pension fund in Connecticut.

When the family reunites every Easter, it's a veritable best-and-brightest convention. You play one-upmanship games in Miguel Loya 's home at your peril. But Javier might have finally trumped them all when he sold McNair on including him in the Texans' partnership.

"Don't they say NFL owners make up one of the world's most exclusive clubs?" he said, feigning smugness.

It hadn't occurred to Loya to seek a small piece of the Texans until a year ago, when he read a story about how McNair wanted his group to represent a cross section of the Houston community. Scanning the list of names - Dynegy chairman Chuck Watson, the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, restaurant magnate Tillman Fertitta and former Oiler Ray Childress among them - Loya immediately noticed a conspicuous omission.

"No Hispanics," he said.

Loya dashed off a letter to McNair expressing interest. Intrigued, Bob arranged a meeting. It didn't take him long to appreciate Javier for what he had accomplished despite his humble roots. They were kindred spirits with strikingly similar stories - two self-made men of different backgrounds, generations and ethnicities who shared the common bond of having achieved financial success beyond all reasonable expectations.

They also shared the same passion for football. An invitation to invest was soon extended to Loya and, after he checked out OK with the NFL's gumshoes, the deal was done. McNair has opted not to reveal how the partnership breaks down percentage-wise - except to say he kept more than 70 percent.

How did Loya accumulate so much so quickly? He has a broker's mentality. As he tells it, when he was a senior, one of his brother Mike's associates picked him up at Columbia in a stretch limo and they went clubbing. Javier has been married for three years, but back then, as Joe College, he prided himself on being a bit of a ladies' man. He chatted up every woman he met - undeterred by the fact his advances kept being rebuffed.

"My brother's friend told me that night I could make it as a trader," Loya said, laughing, "because I handled rejection so well."

It was during the Gulf War and the oil markets were, he recalls, "going crazy. The guy offered me $45,000 if I'd quit school and start immediately. I couldn't do that because of my parents, but I told him I'd find a way to work a couple days a week.

"I loved the business right away. It gives you the same adrenal rush you get from sports. I haven't taken more than a week's vacation since I started."

Loya and the chap who mentored him started their own company, CHOICE! Energy, and moved it to Houston. Later, when his partner wanted to enter the dot-com/Internet wars, Javier bought him out.

But now, even as he runs an office with 30 employees, he hasn't lost his taste for the action. He remains an active trader, riveted to his computer screen every day until the market closes. He eats lunch at his desk, same as his underlings.

Loya 's Texans investment represents the tangible fruits of his labors and, yes, it is a real investment, one on which he expects to make money. But he had purchased his Reliant Stadium PSLs before contacting McNair, and he admits, as a fan, he can hardly stand the wait for the season to start.

On the evening of Sept. 8, Javier 's life will have, in effect, come full circle. That night, the poor immigrant's son turned wealthy entrepreneur and emergent community leader - he'll host an Hispanic forum in conjunction with next week's NFL meetings here - will cheer his fool head off for the Texans, his team, to beat the bejeebers out of the Dallas Cowboys.

His former team.