Small Town to Big Ranch
Monday, January 9, 2023
Media Contact: Kaitlyn Weldon | Digital Communications Specialist | 405-744-7063 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Even in a small town of 800 people, kids can have big dreams. Robert Hodgen, president and CEO of King Ranch Inc., grew up on his family’s grain and beef cattle farm in Roachdale, Indiana. The farm, started by his grandfather in the 1940s and continued by his parents, now is operated by his brother and his family.
In the summer of 1992, Hodgen met Mark Johnson, an animal and food sciences professor and former Oklahoma State University Livestock Judging Team coach. Johnson judged a cattle show in Indiana where Hodgen exhibited a steer.
Coincidentally, one week later, Hodgen was at OSU to enroll as a pre-veterinary animal science student. From then on, Johnson served as a professor, advisor, livestock judging coach, and mentor to Hodgen.
“He was a great student,” Johnson said. “Robert was extremely curious and highly motivated.”
On campus, Hodgen was involved in the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, the Alpha Zeta Honor Society and the 1996 livestock judging team.
Johnson said Hodgen was always ambitious and seemed to seek opportunities to find leadership roles, like the judging team.
Hodgen joined the 1995-96 team with less experience in oral reasons than many of his teammates, Johnson said. Hodgen did not make the cut to compete in the livestock judging contest at the National Western Livestock Show in Denver, but once Johnson returned discovered just how dedicated Hodgen was.
“Never in my years of coaching have I seen a change in reasons from Denver to Fort Worth like I did with Robert,” Johnson said. “He went from marginally good to exceptional in a matter of a few weeks.
“Robert ended up placing in the top 10 high individuals in oral reasons at Louisville in the national championship contest,” Johnson added.
Hodgen said although he was accepted into veterinary school, he chose a different path and started enrolling in business-related courses.
“I had an affinity for business, and finance made sense to me,” Hodgen said. “I was really inspired by the classes in the business school that thought differently than I did.”
After graduation in 1997, Hodgen accepted a position at Cargill. He spent four years with Cargill, traveling and gaining experience within a major agricultural business.
“I have marveled at all the things Robert has accomplished,” Johnson said. “When he called and said ‘I’m going to get an MBA,’ I was not surprised. That is who Robert is. It is in his nature to be successful and pursue his goals.”
Hodgen pursued his Master of Business Administration through the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 2003.
Following graduation, Hodgen advanced his career in agribusiness as vice president for J.D. Heiskell & Co. Hodgen lived in Visalia, California, for more than eight years and Fort Collins, Colorado, for three years while working for J.D. Heiskell. This endeavor gained him experience in a family-owned grain and commodity trading enterprise. During his time in Visalia, Hodgen met his wife, Kari, and the two were married in 2007.
The Hodgens moved to New York City in 2015 where he pursued a career as a private equity investor. Kari Hodgen said her husband cares about getting people in the right place so they can be successful. She said he wants to work with people who are in their perfect roles.
Robert Hodgen was selected as CEO of King Ranch in August 2021. King Ranch is a privately held for-profit corporation owned by the descendants of Capt. Richard King and his wife, Henrietta King.
King Ranch is best known for developing Santa Gertrudis cattle, partnering with Ford Motor Co. trucks, and being a top citrus producer in the U.S.
In his role, Robert Hodgen leads a team of 1,250 employees daily, promotes a culture of excellence that aligns with King Ranch values, and allocates resources to ensure the business executes its strategy.
His role as CEO is a combination of leadership, finance and agriculture for a family-owned business Robert Hodgen has spent his career getting to know, Kari Hodgen said. She said he sees things clearly through the lens of his experience in food and agribusiness. Because of his family’s farm, he understands what it’s like to work for a family business, she added.
“I get energy from investing into the team and developing leaders in the organization,” Robert Hodgen said.
King Ranch is an agribusiness, real estate, energy and resource management company with operations in Texas, Florida and California.
Robert Hodgen spends most of his time in Houston where King Ranch has a small corporate office. He also spends time on the road visiting the different operations throughout the country, he said.
“I bring a multi-faceted background to the role with experiences throughout agribusiness, real estate and investing while understanding the nuances of working for a family-owned business,” Robert Hodgen said. “I also have a genuine passion for the business and enjoy spending time with our employees, vendors and shareholders.”
In his downtime, Robert Hodgen finds time for things he enjoys, like spending time outdoors and shooting sportingclays. The Hodgens also have a love for traveling, having visited all 50 states and more than 45 countries.
Closer to home, Robert Hodgen loves OSU and is diverse in his involvement as an alumnus. He returns for various alumni events as well as football games. He even owns and wears Pistol Pete orange cowboy boots.
Kari Hodgen said her husband is always looking for ways to support the Ferguson College of Agriculture. The two of them are especially excited to be closer to Oklahoma since moving to Houston and to be part of agricultural experiences with students.
Robert Hodgen sees a continued career in the agribusiness sector in his future. He said he has the best job as leader of King Ranch and hopes to stay in the role for a long time.
Curiosity, work ethic and preparation for the task at hand are all things people can control, Robert Hodgen said, and will more likely than not overcome any inherent disadvantages in a given situation.
Regardless of where you come from, you can do big things, even as a small-town farm kid, he said.
Story By: Jillian Remington | Cowboy Journal