When John Goff first showed up in Fort Worth from Houston, he brought with him a U-Haul trailer with all his possessions. He knew only a few people and wasn’t quite sure where his career was going to take him.
Now, over 40 years later, his career has taken him to the Fort Worth Exchange Club as the recipient of the Golden Deeds Award, given to a person or organization the club views as its most outstanding citizen that year. The Exchange Club is a business and professional men’s and women’s service club that focuses on community service. The Fort Worth club was founded in 1924.
Amon Carter, the late Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher and civic booster, was the first recipient of the Golden Deeds Award.
Goff will receive his award at an Exchange Club program on May 10.
“I consider Fort Worth, even though I didn’t grow up here, I consider it my hometown,” Goff said in an interview with the Fort Worth Report. “I just really want to try to leave it in a better place. I feel a real obligation to give back and so I’m trying to do that every way I can.”
If Goff had to name a key moment in his career, it might be going to work out at the City Club in his early days in Fort Worth. The workout was good, but it was a chance meeting with another Fort Worth legend, the late Richard Rainwater, that set the then public accountant on a different career path.
Goff knew he wanted to be an investor and not work in public accounting his whole career.
“Nothing wrong with accounting. It’s a great way to learn the business, but I knew I wanted to be involved in other ways,” he said.
Rainwater was working for Bass Family Enterprises at the time and Goff with a large accounting firm. Rainwater soon struck out on his own and asked Goff to join him. In June of 1987, Goff did, though he wasn’t sure what they were going to do.
Opportunity came knocking via the stock market crash of October 1987. Rainwater allocated $50 million from a partnership he controlled and told Goff to put the money to work.
“That’s literally all the direction he gave me. I was scared out of my mind,” Goff said. “I would like to think he thought I was really smart and a great investor, but the reality was I think he knew the market was so oversold that any dummy could go put money to work at that time, and it would work.”
The investments worked out well.
“Richard knew I could tear apart a financial statement – with the background I had – as well as anybody, so he trusted me on that front,” Goff said. “That was kind of my start.”
Goff said his work with Rainwater involved working with some heavyweights in the business, political and sports world.
Former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Roger Staubach’s real estate was having some debt issues, and Rainwater loaned Goff to Staubach to help work out those issues. Staubach eventually sold his company to JLL for over $600 million.
Rainwater and Goff eventually started Crescent Real Estate. Goff had sketched out a plan to start a real estate company. Rainwater agreed, but Goff would have to put up his entire net worth into the venture.
“I didn’t really have that much then,” Goff said.
The company was successful, eventually going public in 1994 in the largest real estate investment trust initial public offering to date.
Along the way, Crescent Real Estate also worked to improve the communities where they operated, starting a program to adopt schools serving at-risk students.
The company also started a scholarship program for non-officer members of the company. The Goff Family Foundation works with schools locally through its B Sharp Music Foundation, which helps students with music and other skills.
In 2007, Crescent Real Estate was acquired by Morgan Stanley for $6.7 billion. About two years later, when a market downturn hit, Goff was able to repurchase Crescent Real Estate. Crescent Real Estate now has assets valued at more than $10 billion.
And, Goff is proud to say, he is bringing the Crescent name home to Fort Worth with the Crescent Fort Worth Hotel and Crescent Offices, which will open later this year in the Cultural District.
“I love driving by the museums and I love driving down Camp Bowie and then to 7th Street,” said Goff. “It’s just really what makes Fort Worth tick, that whole epicenter of our Cultural District. It really sets the city apart. It’s unique.”
But he always wondered why the land across from the Kimbell Art Museum had never been developed. Some developers had proposed some ideas, but they never came to fruition.
“That location deserved, in my opinion, a much better, classy hotel,” said Goff. “And the city was really ready for it.”
Fort Worth businesswoman and philanthropist Mary Ralph Lowe had the land under contract. She happened to be a neighbor. Over a beer, Lowe agreed to sell Goff the land so he could build a hotel and office complex. There was one stipulation. The hotel had to have a bar named after her father, oilman Ralph Lowe.
“When we open the hotel, we’re going to have a beer together at Ralph’s,” said Goff.
As Goff worked to bring the Crescent home to Fort Worth, he also was asked to co-lead Fort Worth Now, an organization created by then-Mayor Betsy Price to attract businesses to the city.
Working with city and business officials, as well as Texas A&M Law School Dean Bobby Ahdieh, Goff began work to increase the university’s commitment to the city.
When he learned that Fort Worth was the largest city in the country without a Tier 1 or research university, Goff said, he realized getting more commitment from Texas A&M University was the key to the city’s economic future. Fortunately, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp was on board.
“This is their biggest commitment outside of College Station,” said Goff. “It’s a big deal for them, and, I know I’ve said this before, but it’s true: It’s a game-changer for the city.”
The $350 million Texas A&M-Fort Worth campus hasn’t broken ground yet, but Goff sees it as having a once-in-a-lifetime impact.
“This will have, in my view, the biggest possible impact on the city over the next 50 to 100 years,” he said. “It’s going to attract a lot of industries, and it’s already starting.”
As chairman of the successor entity to Fort Worth Now, the Fort Worth Tarrant County Innovation Partnership, Goff will be working to ensure the Texas A&M investment pays off for the school and the city.
Goff said he is glad to be involved as the city grows.
“I think Fort Worth is at a point where it’s really defining itself for the next century, and it’s taking all the benefits of what made it so unique and such an authentic city,” he said.
“I think we’re going to see more companies relocate to Fort Worth,” Goff said. “ I think Fort Worth is really coming into its own, and it’s one of the reasons we’re one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.”
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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