Robert E. Thomas
Mapco was founded by Robert E. Thomas, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance in the 1930s with a degree in accounting and corporate finance. Thomas made a name for himself as manager of railroad investments for Keystone Custodian Fund, a Boston investment firm, and subsequently was hired by Pennroad Corporation to untangle a host of problems left behind by its former railroad holdings. When Pennroad bought the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (Katy) in 1956, it named Thomas as Chairman of the railroad’s executive committee.
Katy was in poor financial condition, with Thomas looking for possible diversification, when he was told of a proposed scheme to run a liquid-propane gas pipeline along railroad rights-of-way from Texas to Albany, New York. Katy’s lines covered a good part of the route, and Thomas pursued the pipeline concept as a possible investment for the railroad. Thomas and a group of partners raised $71 million in capital and organized a company, called Mapco Inc., to build and operate the Mid-America pipeline system.
Mid-America was the first U.S. pipeline built specifically to carry only one type of liquid natural gas, that being propane. Over time Mapco’s original business was the smallest of its many parts but remained the star performer of the group, with each year demonstrating why MAPCO was created in the first place.
In 1997, The Williams Companies agreed to buy Mapco, which by then was the biggest U.S. pipeline system moving propane and butane, for $2.65 billion in stock and the assumption of $750 million in Mapco debt.
This interview with 98-year-old Robert Thomas was conducted on September 26, 2012 in his Tulsa office.
Robert E. “Bob” Thomas passed away on December 3, 2015.
Interview with Robert E. Thomas
Müllerhaus Legacy Website Team
Date Created: September 26, 2012
Date Published: July 15, 2013
Notes: Recorded by John Erling in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Digital Audio Sound Recording, Non-Music.