John Sellers Is Giving Back in Honor of the Professor Who Inspired His Success
Alumnus Names $1 Million Scholarship Endowment After Economics Professor Rashid B. Al-Hmoud.
9.8.2021 | Britton Drown
The call came just after 1:30 a.m. local time, inside a home full of extended family members in Amman, the capital city of Jordan. It was unexpected, to say the least. Nevertheless, Rashid Al-Hmoud arose in the darkness of night to glance at his iPhone, curious about who might be trying to reach him at such an unusual hour while visiting his family.
The harsh blue light from his screen cut through the black stillness of his bedroom revealing a familiar name waiting on the other line.
Sellers wasted little time getting to the point. He was finalizing a gift to Texas Tech's Department of Economics, and he was establishing it in Al-Hmoud's name. The Dr. Rashid B. Al-Hmoud Scholarship in Economics would total $1 million. As an endowed scholarship, it will provide $45,000 of annual scholarship support for undergraduate and graduate students in the department.
The gift was a generous gesture, yet, perhaps more than anything, it reflected the depth of the friendship between the Canyon, Texas, native and the Jordan native with whom Sellers bonded many years ago.
“I always wanted to do something in his name,” Sellers said. “This is something, with Rashid specifically, that I have thought about for three or four years. It's way overdue.”
Back in Jordan, the news quickly spread throughout Al-Hmoud's home.
“I woke up the whole family,” Al-Hmoud said with a chuckle. “It is one of the nicest things that anyone has ever done for me. He knows what Texas Tech means to me.”
The friendship between Sellers and Al-Hmoud is one with a genesis that traces back to 2005 when the pair first crossed paths in Lubbock.
Today, Sellers has built a legacy of remarkable business success, co-founding and growing Double Eagle Holdings into one of the most successful oil and gas exploration and development companies in the world. The company's subsidiaries, Double Eagle and DoublePoint, have sold to industry partners for a combined $9.2 billion since 2017 under the management of Sellers and his business partner and co-founder Cody Campbell, currently a Texas Tech University System regent.
Now, Sellers is growing something with a uniquely different impact. A legacy at the school that he believes in deeply and a scholarship fund named in honor of a professor that has served as a mentor and adviser along the way.
“It's something that I want to grow,” Sellers said of his initial endowment. “It's just something that I think will be impactful to young men and women who need the money, and it will be something that will allow Rashid and me to stay in contact forever. And it will be very fulfilling.”
The Family Business
A native of the Texas Panhandle, Sellers was born in Amarillo to a lineage of cattle ranchers dating back more than a century. From an early age, the young Sellers was witness to the tenacity, the grit, and the fearless business instinct required to trade cattle and sustain a generational pursuit.
Sellers himself is the fourth generation of the family business. Today, he still leans on the indelible lessons he learned spending long days beside his brother, father and grandfather overseeing the ranch operations and traveling to make deals across the region and state.
“It's a tough business,” Sellers said. “One that you have to work extremely tough in and you can't take anything for granted. As much as anything, it taught me the value of a dollar and the value of hard work.”
Following graduation from Canyon High School, Sellers continued in his family legacy by attending Texas Tech to study economics while also walking on to the Red Raider football team.
“I knew at the end of the day that is where I wanted to be,” he said.
A Sixth Sense
As juniors at Tech, Sellers and Campbell, childhood friends from Canyon, cast a vision of their own. They both had a passion for business, searching for and capitalizing on deals, and disrupting industries. So, the pair drew upon that passion, their West Texas tenacity, and set out on their first venture – a real estate business in Lubbock.
Sellers purchased a few rent homes across the city to lease back to his classmates and friends. Meanwhile, the pair forged connections across the area, raised additional capital, and leaned on the insight of their economics professor, and friend Al-Hmoud.
“Rashid was a name that just kept coming up,” Sellers said. “He was a very well thought of person on campus. As the business grew, he became more and more involved in helping us grow the business and raise money.”
Quickly, Al-Hmoud noticed there was something different about Sellers. Not only did he have an instinct for raising capital, but he has a certain vision for opportunity. Through prudent real estate investments, the business grew organically. Eventually, in 2004 at just 22-years-old, Sellers and his partners connected with a landowner eager to sell 220 acres near Milwaukee Avenue and 34th Street in Lubbock.
After two years of securing and completing infrastructure, Sellers' team sold the development, as well as adjacent undeveloped land to a prominent homebuilder in Lubbock.
“He has a sixth sense when it comes to business that I've never seen before,” Al-Hmoud said of Sellers. “He just feels it. He is able to see things before anybody else does.”
On the heels of the 2008 economic downturn, Sellers and Campbell exited the real estate business. Taking what they learned together about the industry, they set their sights on the Permian Basin.
That year, they formed Double Eagle Holdings, an oil and natural gas exploration venture that focused on acquiring and packaging strategic acreage. The name, Double Eagle, draws inspiration from Sellers and Campbell's days of playing football together at Canyon High School.
“We started out extremely humbly.” Sellers said. “It was the same philosophy. We didn't go into it with any preconceived ways of doing things, but we knew we were fairly smart and we developed processes that were kind of cutting edge to our industry.”
Double Eagle set its sights on prime fields and shale acreage across Oklahoma, Louisiana, and the Permian Basin. Through persistence and their sixth sense for an opportunity to strike a deal, Double Eagle found early success. The pair secured an acquisition of acreage in the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana and Oklahoma, eventually selling the assets for $225 million to Aubrey McClendon, founder of Chesapeake Energy.
The key to their early success, according to Sellers, was hard work, and an unusual attention to the details, no matter the size of the acquisition or deal.
“We just looked at every deal, whether it was a $20,000 deal or a $500 million deal, very incrementally,” Sellers said. “We are in the weeds on literally every decision that gets made in our company. I think that is unique for a large oil and gas company.”
By 2013, the steady success of Double Eagle Holdings attracted the attention of New York-based private equity firm Apollo Global Management. Apollo approached Sellers and the Double Eagle team with an offer to provide financial backing and investment to fuel future growth.
The partnership officially formed, and propelled Double Eagle into one of the largest acquirers of acreage in the Permian Basin.
Four years later, Double Eagle sold its assets to Parsley Energy for $2.8 billion.
Once the deal with Parsley Energy closed, Double Eagle Holdings formed a new venture, DoublePoint, which focused on acquiring underdeveloped acreage in the core of the Midland Basin. The venture drilled more than 170 horizontal wells, and in March 2021, was acquired by Pioneer Natural Resources for $6.4 billion.
“To see where he is now with where he used to be, the word ‘proud' is an understatement,” Al-Hmoud said. “It really is.”
Giving Back to Where it Started
Today, Sellers remains the co-CEO and co-founder of Double Eagle Holdings, LLC, with its home office in Fort Worth. Meanwhile, he remains involved in the family cattle business.
As he reflects upon his journey from Canyon, Texas, to Texas Tech, and now the leader of one of the most influential oil and gas companies in the world, Sellers is quick to point out the central role his alma mater played in the story.
“I think Tech just breeds a certain entrepreneurial spirit that you don't see at other universities,” Sellers said. “That's key to a lot of people's success -- coming from Texas Tech.”
It was at Texas Tech that Sellers also met his wife, Tracy, who played softball for the Red Raiders.
Now, the Dr. Rashid B. Al-Hmoud Scholarship in Economics significantly bolstered the Department of Economics' ability to support undergraduate and graduate students following in Sellers' footsteps.
Al-Hmoud said the scholarships will also help attract top-tier students, while also boosting the graduate programs.
Finally, the scholarship, of course, was particularly meaningful to Al-Hmoud – a longtime faculty member who recently celebrated his 30th anniversary of arriving on the Texas Tech campus in 1991. Al-Hmoud's wife, Rula earned two master's degrees at Texas Tech and teaches in the Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures. Their daughter, Jude, graduated from the Texas Tech Honors College in 2019 and is now working on Capitol Hill in Congress while pursuing a master's degree from Georgetown University. Their son, Faisal, is a senior economics student at Texas Tech and current president of the Student Government Association.
“He [Sellers] knows what Texas Tech means to me and my family,” said Al-Hmoud. “I've devoted my entire career to Texas Tech. This was my first job, my only job, and will be my last job. This is just one way to cement the Al-Hmoud name forever.”
For Sellers, the gesture of the scholarship endowment represents more than simply a financial impact. It is truly about honoring the legacy of their friendship.
“I owe so much to Texas Tech and so much more than this gift,” Sellers said. “I wanted to do something for Tech, but more so, I wanted to do something for a dear friend. This was for someone who deserves it. He has given his life to Texas Tech, and he is one of my closest friends. Hopefully, this is the beginning of an endowment that will inspire others with whom Texas Tech has had a positive impact, and will energize alumni to give back to the College of Arts & Sciences.”
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