Robert J. Underbrink is elected President and CEO of King Ranch, Inc.
The King Ranch Board of directors unanimously elected Riviera native Robert J. Underbrink, 49, of Houston as President, Chief Executive Officer, and appointed director at its meeting on June 9, in Kingsville.
Underbrink is a 26-year King Ranch employee. He had been serving as Senior Vice President of King Ranch and replaces Jack Hunt, 65.
Hunt is retiring as Chief Executive and a Director of the Company after 15 years of service.
James H. Clement, Jr. commented on the succession process, “King Ranch and its family owners are fortunate to have been able to identify, develop, and promote from within an executive of Robert’s experience and quality to become our new President and CEO.”
Clement further praised that “Underbrink had been a King Ranch, key player in the Company’s
growth and success in recent years, particularly as King Ranch has expanded into new regions and new agricultural commodities.”
Underbrink said, “It is an honor and a challenge to assume the responsibilities of management of the greatest
Clement also thanked Hunt for his years of service to King Ranch and in particular the role he played in assisting the Company’s transition from a family-run company to a family-owned and governed company whose business affairs were run by first-rate professional managers like Underbrink. Clement has asked Hunt to continue to serve as an advisor to the Company on various matters. King Ranch, Inc. is a private, diversified agribusiness company headquartered in Houston and owner of the historic 825,000 acre King Ranch. Its operations include cattle breeding and production, horses, wildlife management and recreation, and the production of a number of agricultural commodities including cotton, milo, sugar cane, and various vegetables.
King Ranch operates extensive turfgrass operations in Texas and Florida and is the majority owner of the largest citrus producer in the United States. King Ranch also owns a major pecan processor and marketer and is involved in minerals development.
The Company operates various retail operations in South Texas including the famous King Ranch Saddle Shop.
The new president began his career with King Ranch in February of 1984 as a management trainee, having graduated with a degree in agricultural economics in December of 1983 from Texas A&I University, now Texas A&M University- Kingsville.
Underbrink was hired by then King Ranch President John B. Armstrong, who immediately dispatched him to operations in Florida and Pennsylvania before sending him to Venezuela and Brazil where King Ranch also had ranching operations.
Underbrink spent time at King Ranch Australia, as well, and he was eventually assigned to oversee Big B Ranch in Florida. The new King Ranch CEO, having been born into an agriculture family, understood what it took to raise livestock and grow crops, and from his college studies, he realized the business side of ranching was equally important.
As a King Ranch manager, he immersed himself in governmental regulations from the local to the federal and international level, financing, commodities markets, impact of agriculture on the environment, agriculture labor, minerals development and the political process necessary to enact agriculture-related legislation.
All of this acquired knowledge came into play when King Ranch purchased Coca Cola Company citrus groves in Florida in 1993, which eventually led to the formation Consolidated Citrus Limited Partnership with King Ranch as the majority owner. Consolidated Citrus became the nucleus of what would evolve into the largest citrus producing venture in the United States with King Ranch as the managing partner.
Underbrink served as president of CCLP from 1999 to 2005 and still sits on the board.
While managing King Ranch’s Florida interests, Underbrink was also named a vice president of King Ranch with the responsibility for managing the farming operations, including 60,000 acres of cotton and grain sorghum here in South Texas and about 20,000 acres of sugarcane and sod in Florida.
King Ranch acquired Young Pecan in 2006. Underbrink was assigned responsibility for managing this major pecan processor with a shelling and processing plant in New Mexico and pecan cold storage facilities on the east coast and west coast.
Texas Turfgrass, which includes several turfgrass farms and retail outlets in the Lone Star State, was added to the King Ranch stable of businesses three years ago. Texas Turfgrass is the largest turfgrass producer in the state and is also part of Underbrink’s responsibility.
Now as King Ranch CEO, the balance of the 825,000 acres on the home ranches in South Texas and King Ranch Minerals will also be part of his responsibilities.
In contrast to the mega holdings of King Ranch, Underbrink, the son of Lorraine and Marion Underbrink, grew up on a 30- acre farm in Riviera, the youngest of 10 brothers and sisters.
He didn’t know his destiny at the time, but farm life in rural South Texas proved to be a great training ground for the King Ranch responsibilities that were to come his way.
In addition to his chores as a youngster on the family farm, he worked with his father and helped at his uncle’s fruit stand.
A graduate of Riviera’s Kaufer High School, Underbrink worked his way through college waiting tables and cooking at King’s Inn.
Underbrink and wife Laura, son John Underbrink and daughters, Katelyn Underbrink and Krystal King, after living in Florida for two decades, have moved to Houston.
Underbrink was the first recipient of the Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture and Human Sciences 2006 Hall of Fame award from Texas A&M-Kingsville.
He is a director of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, a former director of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, a member of the American Society of Sugar Cane Technologist, a member of the Florida Citrus Mutual through managed operations and past chairman of the Florida Land Council.
He is also a life trustee of the South Florida Fair, which through its Youth Market Program, encourages young people to pursue careers in agriculture.
He has been honored as a Distinguished Alumnus of his alma mater and continues his support of Texas A&MKingsville, especially in programs in agriculture, ranch management and wildlife research.
Even with his extensive travels and international King Ranch assignments, Underbrink’s roots have always remained in Kleberg County.
Now that he is president and CEO of King Ranch, his trips from the Houston headquarters to South Texas will bring him home even more often, making his latest King Ranch assignment an even greater experience.
Stephen J. “Tio” Kleberg, a King Ranch family member who serves on the Board of Directors, noted, “Robert was the clear choice of the Board of Directors to succeed Jack, after 26 years of capably leading his team to expansion in Florida and Texas.”
Kleberg described Underbrink as someone who is a very dedicated, honest, and a hard worker who has put in the time and hours with his people to deserve and earn their respect.
“We are very confident that Robert shares our passion for the assets he manages and will carry on the tradition shared by the shareholders of King Ranch,” Kleberg said.