As the Chinese coronavirus and government efforts to contain the epidemic continue to hammer the state’s economy, more and more business owners are having to furlough employees or cut their hours. Among them? Tilman Fertitta.

A self-made billionaire businessman and TV personality, Tilman Fertitta presides over a service industry empire—serving as chairman, president, CEO and controlling shareholder of Landry’s, Inc. The company’s properties include the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Biloxi, Lake Charles, the Kemah Boardwalk, and Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, as well as restaurant chains such as Morton’s The Steakhouse, McCormick and Schmicks, Chart House, Bubba Gump, Rainforest Café, Saltgrass Steakhouse, and Vic & Anthony’s.

Worth $4.6 billion according to Forbes, the self-made businessman is also the owner of the Houston Rockets and the chairman of the University of Houston Board of Regents (reappointed by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2015).

But not even Fertitta is immune from the economic devastation wrought in the wake of the virus. With many of his businesses all but shut down by local governments, he’s been forced to temporarily lay off more than 40,000 employees across his business empire.

That’s about 70 percent of his workforce.

“We are doing basically no business,” Fertitta told Bloomberg. “I want to hire every employee back. This is very hard on a lot of working families, but we have to survive or there is no company.”

Fertitta has been active in calling on authorities to allow service industry businesses like his to be allowed to “reopen at limited capacity” in order to stem losses and keep employees working.

“I think what we are doing with the shut-down is good but in a few weeks people will need to be around people,” Fertitta said in an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday. “Otherwise you are going to go into an economic crisis that is going to take us years to dig ourselves out of.”

Cary Cheshire

Cary Cheshire is a political commentator and activist based in Fort Worth, Texas. His best writings typically contain 280 characters or less and can be found on Twitter @CaryCheshireTX.


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