George Kaiser: Guardian of Groundbreaking Growth

George Kaiser: Guardian of Groundbreaking Growth

By Charles Joseph | Editor, Financial Affairs
Reviewed by Corey Michael | Senior Financial Analyst

George Kaiser is a notable American business tycoon and philanthropist. Born on July 29, 1942, he is best known for being chairman of BOK Financial Corporation in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Coming from a rich family of immigrants from Germany, Kaiser took over his family’s oil business, Kaiser-Francis Oil, in the 1960s. He later branched out to the banking industry. Over the years, Kaiser has amassed a considerable fortune – he was listed among the 100 richest people in the world.

Apart from his business endeavors, Kaiser is also heavily involved in various charitable and social initiatives. He established the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which aims to address severe social problems, including poverty and poor education, primarily focusing on his hometown Tulsa. He is known for his commitment to giving away a majority of his wealth.

1. Business Ventures

George Kaiser’s entry into the business world began when he took over the reins of his family’s business, Kaiser-Francis Oil, in the mid-1960s. This oil company, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, paved the foundation of Kaiser’s wealth and business advocacy. Under his leadership, Kaiser-Francis Oil Company grew to become one of the largest private energy exploration companies in the United States.

In the 1990s, Kaiser expanded his business interests into the banking sector. He became the majority shareholder of Bank of Oklahoma, later known as BOK Financial Corporation. This move increased the breadth of his business operations and he continues to serve as the chairman of BOK Financial Corporation, overseeing its growth and operations. Today, BOK Financial Corporation is a billion-dollar entity that offers a wide range of financial services.

Over the years, George Kaiser’s strategic investments and business acumen have propelled him to the status of one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. His diversified business interests also speak to his visionary approach to entrepreneurship. Despite the inherent risks of the volatile markets of oil and banking, Kaiser managed to create successful enterprises in both sectors.

2. Philanthropy Work

Beyond the business realm, George Kaiser is widely recognized for his substantial philanthropic contributions. His dedication to alleviate poverty and better education levels led to the establishment of the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF). This endeavor forms a substantial part of his commitment to give away a major chunk of his wealth.

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The GKFF has various initiatives into early childhood education, community health, civic enhancement and social services. One notable example is the Educare initiative – a comprehensive early childhood program for underprivileged children designed to ensure school readiness. The Foundation also invests in the improvement of public health systems, focusing on Tulsa’s infrastructural development.

George Kaiser firmly believes in creating equal opportunities for everyone. His philanthropy work extends to social justice causes, aiming to reduce mass incarceration rates and bring about systemic criminal justice reform. His approach reflects a strategic vision not only in terms of financial contributions but also offering long term solutions to complex societal issues. Demonstrating a lifelong commitment to giving, Kaiser’s philanthropy work is focused on producing impactful change, particularly in his hometown of Tulsa.

3. Personal Life and Background

George Kaiser’s story begins with his birth on July 29, 1942, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Born into a family of German Jewish immigrants who had set up a successful oil drilling exploration business, Kaiser was exposed to entrepreneurial life from an early age. This family background played a crucial role in shaping his business acumen and introduced him to the oil exploration industry.

Kaiser’s upbringing significantly influenced his philosophy in life and business. Despite his family’s affluence, he was raised to understand the importance of hard work and modesty. This, in turn, fueled his desire to use his wealth for bigger objectives – like fighting poverty and bettering education.

Despite cautious privacy concerning his personal life, Kaiser is known to be married with three children. His personal journey on the road to success, his philanthropic engagements, and his strong ties to Tulsa, Oklahoma, narrate a truly inspiring story of a business leader who leveraged his privilege to drive change and foster social good.


George Kaiser’s multifaceted influence extends beyond his successful business ventures, speaking true to his commitment to drive societal change. His life exemplifies a balance between entrepreneurial success and resolute commitment to philanthropy, making him a significant figure in both business and social sectors.

Key Takeaways

  • George Kaiser is an influential entrepreneur, known for his roles in Kaiser-Francis Oil and BOK Financial Corporation.
  • He is also a philanthropist, establishing the George Kaiser Family Foundation to fight poverty and improve education.
  • Kaiser’s business strategies and philanthropic vision have placed him among the world’s wealthiest and most generous individuals.
  • His personal life and upbringing played a significant role in shaping his business acumen and philanthropic tendencies.
  • Despite his wealth, Kaiser remains dedicated to driving change and advancing society, particularly in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Related Questions

1. What are some projects spearheaded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation?

The foundation has initiated several programs, including Educare centers for early childhood development, the Gathering Place public parks in Tulsa, and efforts to address systemic criminal justice reform.

2. Are there examples of George Kaiser’s business strategies?

Kaiser’s diversified business interests are a testament to his strategic approach. For instance, when he took over his family’s oil company, he expanded into the volatile banking industry and turned BOK Financial Corporation into a billion-dollar venture.

3. What is George Kaiser’s net worth?

His exact net worth varies yearly due to market fluctuations, but it’s usually estimated at several billions of dollars, making him one of the 100 wealthiest people globally.

4. How did George Kaiser’s upbringing influence his life?

Born to an affluent German Jewish immigrant family that ran a prosperous oil business in Oklahoma, Kaiser’s upbringing influenced his entrepreneurial mindset. Despite their wealth, his family instilled in him a spirit of hard work and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate, shaping his philanthropic approach to wealth.

5. Is George Kaiser involved in other non-profit work outside his foundation?

Yes, Kaiser is also a member of The Giving Pledge. Pioneered by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, this collective commitment encourages the wealthiest individuals and families across the globe to pledge most of their wealth to charitable causes during their lifetimes or in their wills.