HOUSTON — Bennie Lee Beal Jr., a Houston businessman who owned what was once the largest black-owned limousine service company in Texas, died April 29 of congestive heart failure. He was 64.
"Bennie Beal was an adventurer," said his wife, Lillie. "Everything he started with, he was going to do well."
Before Bennie Beal started his limousine enterprise, he and his wife both drove cabs to put their son and daughter through college. "He would drive at night and I would drive during the day," she said.
In 1992, the couple launched Beal's Town Car and Limousine Service; they partnered with Enron, the one-time energy giant, seven years later. Beal sold 37% of the company for $300,000 to Enron Economic Development Corp., a subsidiary that invested in minority and women-owned businesses.
Beal said he was reluctant to open his business to an outside investor, according to a 1999 Chronicle article about the investment deal. "This is a family-owned business," he was quoted as saying in the story, "and I didn't want to do anything that would sabotage my chances of passing it down to my children."
The Sept. 11 attacks and Enron's collapse almost drove Beal into bankruptcy, but his company remains afloat, albeit with a smaller fleet of cars. Lillie Beal would not say how many the company now owns.
"We started off with two cars," Lillie Beal said, "and we ended up with 16. But we went down when Enron went down. Now, we're starting back up, everybody needs a car."
Source: Houston Chronicle