An Impressive Footprint
In 1931, seven men met to discuss the improvement and development of the cattle industry along the Gulf Coast area of Texas. Little did they know the enormous impact their meeting would have on the livestock and agriculture industry as they launched the first Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Since the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (the Show) was established, it has made an impressive footprint on the livestock and entertainment industries and in the sport of rodeo.
The Show has committed more than $235 million to the youth of Texas, benefiting an estimated 20,000 Texas students through the event's direct educational programs since the first scholarship was presented in 1957. Annually, the Show awards millions of dollars to the youth of Texas, with $10.9 million committed for 2009-2010.
Along with the impression the Show makes on the agriculture industry and education, its economic impact on the Houston metropolitan area exceeds $345 million and close to $387 million worldwide.
The Show brings almost 2 million visitors each year, and for the past 78 years, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has kept Western heritage alive in one of the nation's largest cities.
A Cowboy with a Harvard MBA
A unique attribute of the Show, in addition to drawing the world's top rodeo athletes and superstar entertainers, is the talent that gathers behind the scenes to operate and manage the event. Houston's smartest business minds work diligently to plan and execute every aspect of the Show, many of them on a volunteer basis. More than 20,000 volunteers serving on 98 different committees work more than 1.1 million hours, saving the Show $21 million in payroll costs.
From CEOs to carpenters, all are committed to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, giving countless hours, energy and consideration to making the Show the legend that it has become.
Skip Wagner's relationship with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo began in 1992 when he served as the assistant general manager, overseeing grounds entertainment, operations and fundraising. He left for a brief period to serve as president and general manager of the Oklahoma State Fair, but returned to the Show in 2004 and became the president and CEO in 2005.
Wagner's impressive background—a chemical engineering degree from Oklahoma State University, a master's degree in business administration from Harvard Business School, a four year stint with prestigious consulting firm McKinsey and Co., and his work with the Oklahoma State Fair—positions him well to run the largest rodeo in the nation.
"My background is chemical engineering, which is problem-solving, so I get to be creative and apply a lot of analytical thought to the Show and the business operations that make it function successfully. That's a very rewarding way to spend my energy and I am blessed with some of the best volunteers and business talent in the Houston region, all committed to making the Show excel," said Wagner.
Committees and Legal Advice
Running the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a 365-day operation involving a complex network of leaders and working groups, including more than 300 directors, an executive committee, several different divisions focused on everything from administration to exhibits, finances, IT, marketing and legal issues.
The Legal Advisory Committee brings together attorneys from several law firms, including Winstead PC. Winstead Shareholder and former Managing Shareholder of the Houston Office Ross Margraves' relationship with the Show began in 1985 when he volunteered to work on the Steer Auction Committee. Currently, Margraves is a director of the Show and immediate past chairman of the Legal Advisory Committee. Over the years, Margraves and various teams of Winstead attorneys have assisted the Show with legal matters involving corporate, real estate, labor & employment, litigation, tax and appellate law matters.
What appeals most to Margraves about working with the Show is the culture. "You can go to a meeting and sit between the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation and a pipefitter from one of the channel industries and everyone at the table respects each other and works together on executing a terrific show," said Margraves. "There are couples who plan their vacation each year around coming to Houston. They park their camper at a local lot and enjoy all of the activities the Show provides. I'm proud to be a part of this outfit and the many memorable experiences it brings to the attendees."
Wagner agrees and adds "Where else can you get the world's largest livestock show, the richest regular-season PRCA rodeo, the famous performers and entertainment—combined with great food, a thrilling carnival, petting zoos, pony rides, shopping, and farming and agriculture displays? There is something for everyone to enjoy. It's no wonder visitors and locals love the chance to be a part of the Show and Go Texan."