Life in Frisco on what would become known, thanks to television, as the original Southfork Ranch came with all the glamour of visiting celebrities, Dallas society events, and thoroughbred horses.
But for Douglas Box, the youngest son of the late Cloyce Box, an NFL-champion turned self-made millionaire, life on Park Lane in Preston Hollow proved much more satisfying.
“That was the happiest time of my life when we were just a normal family,” he recalled. “That was the age of innocence when Mom and Dad took care of everything and my job was to play with the neighborhood kids and walk to Walnut Hill Elementary School.”
Today, Douglas Box, 60, lives a short drive from that old Park Lane home in what he calls “Preston Holler,” because it’s a bit too far north to be considered part of Preston Hollow.
He offices near there, too. Box works as a certified family business adviser, but sees himself as a preacher of sorts, an evangelist even, on a mission to warn other families about the personal and financial losses that can come if they are ill prepared for the passing of the business founder.
“I feel like I’m on a crusade to sound the warning bell to families to heed the call,” he said.
That crusade is fueled by his own sad family story.
In his second book, Texas Patriarch: A Legacy Lost, Box tells of his father’s ascent in business and the family and business turmoil that followed when Cloyce Box suddenly died at age 70 in 1993.
“This book was written to scare the pants off of other families that have resources,” he said.
Box recounts the strained relationships, brothers suing brothers, and the eventual sale of the family business that would grow exponentially in the years afterward.
“I don’t think my family particularly likes this book,” he conceded. “Frankly, I don’t like this story.
“But I am proud of the book,” he said. “I wrote it to serve other families, not the Box family.”
Cloyce Box grew up poor in Jonesboro, Texas, but went on to football stardom at West Texas State Teachers College in Canyon. After serving in World War II, he returned to football, playing alongside Doak Walker and catching passes from Bobby Layne on the way to back-to-back championships for the Detroit Lions.
Fame earned in his NFL career led to opportunities in the construction business. Cloyce Box went to work for Fuller Construction, a career that brought him to Dallas as he advanced in the company. He became CEO of Fuller and started his own businesses, making his mark in cement, oil and gas, and real estate. He did business with the likes of Dallas’ Trammell Crow.
As his wealth grew, he purchased ranches, first near Allen and then in Frisco.
Douglas Box’s first book, published in 2014, plays with the Hollywood angles of his life on a famous TV estate. Cutter Frisco: Growing Up on the Original Southfork Ranch chronicles Larry Hagman’s arrival on the Frisco ranch, the shooting of those first episodes of the TV series Dallas, and explores comparisons between Cloyce Box and the television character J.R. Ewing.
The ranch house made famous in television burned down before Cloyce Box died, and the unfinished shell of its replacement still stands on what is now the Brinkmann Ranch on Main Street, in now booming Frisco.
Texas Patriarch, published late last year, focuses more on Dallas, where the family dined at the Chaparral Club and from where Cloyce Box ran his business, Box Energy Corp., in offices at Preston Road and Sherry Lane.
The book delves into Cloyce Box’s business style, which embroiled the family in investigations and lawsuits.
Douglas Box said his father was addicted to the litigation, a virus the sons inherited. With control of the estate and the business divided among them, tension and distrust grew and lawsuits followed.
“Intra-family lawsuits are like gasoline on the fire,” Douglas Box said, blaming himself for filing the first one. “After that first lawsuit was filed, we were never able to make any decent decisions.”
The jacket of Texas Patriarch includes blurbs from such prominent Texans as Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, Texas Monthly editor Skip Hollandsworth, and Tom Hicks, former owner of the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Stars.
“Doug Box’s chronicle of the turmoil his family endured serves as an insightful example of what not to do when in business with your family,” Hicks wrote.
Douglas Box is hard on himself and his father, but still admires his dad, and the Detroit Lions remain his favorite team.
“I could have canonized him easily, but I didn’t think a book like that would be interesting to the readers,” the author said. “There are a lot of guys who like to tell success stories, but we learn more from failure.”
Douglas Box offers tips for family-owned businesses:
• Step down early enough to foster smooth transition.
• Get family members who shouldn’t be in the business out of the business.
• Rely on quality outside advisors.
• Avoid resolving family disputes in court.
• The best time to use lawyers is up front for planning.