It’s perhaps a little surprising that Bill Gautreaux, formerly the president of a liquids and crude business unit in Kansas City, and a founder of leading energy firm Inergy, studied history and philosophy at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, which he attended on a tennis scholarship. After graduation, Gautreaux bartended and taught tennis on the side, finally getting a part-time telemarketing job at the propane supplier company Ferrellgas, where he met his current Inergy partner. Gautreaux sits on the board of trustees at two museums in Kansas City: the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. He and his wife, Christy, started collecting over 20 years ago; their first purchase was a painting by Belizean artist Walter Castillo, snapped up before the paint had even dried. The couple recently began construction on a new home with a built-in gallery and spaces big enough to house large-scale installations. The Gautreauxes organized an exhibition of selections from their collection titled “Piece by Piece” at the Kemper Museum in 2015, and have also lent works to the Nelson-Atkins Museum and the Venice Biennale.

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Christy and Bill Gautreaux

Kansas City, Missouri

Source of wealth:
Privately held non-bank holdings company

Collecting area:
Contemporary art

Top 200 appearance:
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Fun fact:

In a 2014 article in the Kansas City Business Journal, Bill Gautreaux said his love of art stems from his unstructured childhood. “I was the last of seven kids [and] pretty independent . . . I didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions about a lot of things and was very open to new ideas and new ways of looking at things. That has something to do with my love of art. Art lets you see so many things expressed in different ways. Learning to appreciate different perspectives can definitely help you in business.”