Farris and Dan Wilks hit pay dirt during the shale boom when they sold their Texas fracking company in 2011 for $3.5 billion, giving them ample resources to fund their interests in land, politics and religion.

But many of their more recent investments in the Permian Basin have turned to dust.

The brothers put some of their fortune into Cisco, Texas-based Wilks Brothers LLC to invest in various businesses, including natural gas producer Approach Resources Inc. The shale driller sought bankruptcy protection Monday after 4 1/2 years of losses, erasing more than $110 million of the Wilkses’ wealth.

That follows the recent implosion of at least two other firms in which they invested -- Alta Mesa Resources Inc. and Halcon Resources Corp. -- after the shale boom went bust for explorers that piled on debt as gluts of crude and gas depressed prices.

Eight of the 10 biggest holdings in a portfolio spanning more than 50 investments have dropped since June 2018, when they were worth almost $1 billion. In a filing last week, they reported stakes in just seven entities worth a total of only $35.7 million. The combined value of those remaining holdings plunged by $171.2 million, or 88%, since they were initially disclosed.

The brothers didn’t reply to messages seeking comment.

Father’s Footsteps

The brothers make unlikely billionaires. They followed in their father’s footsteps to become masons in a rural swath of North Texas and used insights about manipulating stone in 2002 to create Frac Tech Holdings, which combines high-pressure jets of water, sand and chemicals to smash oil- and gas-soaked rocks miles underground.

Shale impresario Aubrey McClendon’s Chesapeake Energy Corp. bought a 25.8% stake in Frac Tech at the height of the shale gas frenzy in 2006, helping turn it into the world’s fourth-largest fracking firm. Five years later, the Wilkses sold their remaining 74.2% holding of Frac Tech to a consortium led by Singapore’s Temasek Holdings Pte for $3.5 billion.

The brothers used their fortunes to purchase hundreds of thousands of acres of ranch land in five states. They became the top property owners in Montana and Idaho, according to the Land Report, and faced criticism for gating roads previously open to the public in Boise National Forest. An expanse of more than 11,000 acres around one closed road is now on the market for $10.3 million.

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