1990 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Learn how to do something better than anyone else. Work hard and stay clean, and the success you want will be automatic."
The son of an oil field worker, Jim Bob Moffett was born in 1938 in Houma, Louisiana. When he was very young, his parents divorced and he and his sister moved to Houston with his mother, who worked as a department store credit clerk. As a young teen, Moffett worked at several odd jobs to help support his family. He bagged groceries, delivered newspapers, pumped gas, and sold shoes. Still, he found time to be an active Boy Scout and studied hard enough to become a member of the National Honor Society.
Moffett attended the University of Texas at Austin on a full football scholarship, playing for legendary Longhorn Coach Darrell Royal, who became his mentor. Moffett graduated in 1961 with an award for excellence in geology and was the senior football player with the highest scholastic average, an accomplishment of which he is particularly proud. In 1963, he received a master's degree in geology from Tulane.
Moffett began working as an oilfield “roustabout” in New Orleans until becoming a consulting geologist in the oil and gas industry with W. K. McWilliams, Jr. In 1969, McWilliams, Moffett and B.M. Rankin organized McMoRan Oil and Gas Co. In 1981, Moffett put together one of the largest corporate mergers in the history of Wall Street, combining McMoRan Oil & Gas Co. and Freeport Minerals Company to form Freeport-McMoRan Inc. It became one of the world's leading natural resource companies and Moffett served as chairman and CEO. In 2007, under his leadership as chairman, Freeport-McMoRan Inc. acquired Phelps Dodge Corp., a $27 billion deal that at the time was the biggest acquisition in the history of the mining industry. The transaction transformed Freeport-McMoRan Inc. into the world's largest publicly traded copper company and largest producer of molybdenum, employing 25,000 people. The company, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, engages in the exploration, mining, milling, and smelting of copper, gold, silver, and molybdenum in North America, South America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. In 2013, FCX completed the $19 billion acquisition of Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP) and McMoRan Exploration Co. (MMR), adding high-quality oil and gas assets to FCX’s global mining business.
Moffett defines success as “reaching a point in life when you can help other people to be successful.” True to the principles and practices of Horatio Alger, since climbing the ladder to success, Moffett has worked hard to keep it in place for younger generations to follow through his work with the Horatio Alger Association and educational philanthropy. Under his leadership, Freeport-McMoRan Inc. supports educational, healthcare and social development programs worldwide. Twice in recent years, BusinessWeek Magazine has named Freeport-McMoRan Inc. the most philanthropic company in America, based on total giving as a percentage of revenues.
Moffett advises young people that success is available to anyone in America. To be successful, he says, “You need to find something that you think you can do better than anyone else, and then out-work everyone around you.” Hard work creates opportunities for success, he says, frequently quoting Coach Royal, who told him as a young man that “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Moffett adds: “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”
Jim Bob Moffett has the honor of being the Horatio Alger Association's recipient of the 2000 Norman Vincent Peale Award, bestowed on those members whose dedication to the Association and its mission, and whose extraordinary humanitarian contributions to society distinguish them as exceptional role models. Moffett has served the Association as a board member and is currently chairman emeritus. He says, “I want everyone to know that in America everyone can succeed.” Moffett credits the Horatio Alger Association with “getting the message out that in America success should be celebrated.”