Update: I’ve received a note from Mr. Wyly’s cousin (in comments) clarifying that the Michaels Arts & Crafts stores that were founded by Charles and Sam Wyly were sold while quite profitable. The business downturn apparently with subsequent owners.
I am sad to report that Dallas philanthropist and billionaire Charles Wyly, whose name is on the Dee and Charles Wyly Theaterin the AT&T Performing Arts Center, died this morning in Aspen, in an apparent auto accident. The Wylys have a second home in Aspen and Charles was out running errands in his blue Porsche Targa. Here is the release from the Colorado State Patrol:
On August 7, 2011 at approximately 10:50 a.m. a blue Porsche Targa was northbound on Airport Rd. attempting to make a left turn onto Colorado Highway 82. A gray Ford Freestyle was traveling in the right lane eastbound on Colorado Highway 82. The Ford struck the Porsche on the driver’s side.
The driver of the Porsche, Mr. Charles Wyly, age 77, from Woody Creek, CO was transported to Aspen Valley Hospital where he died of his injuries just after noon. The driver of the Ford, Ms. Genezi Lacerda, age 40, of Snowmass Village, CO sustained moderate injuries and was also transported to Aspen Valley Hospital. Both drivers were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash. Alcohol/drugs are not suspected to have contributed to this crash. This crash remains under investigation.
Charles and Sam Wyly are self-made Dallas entrepreneurs and businessmen, and the billionaire co- founders of Sterling Software. They grew up on a Louisiana cotton farm. They also dabbled with ownership in Bonanza Steakhouse, Michaels Stores (arts and crafts, I believe they went bankrupt or closed) and Maverick Capital, a hedge fund, among others. In 2010, the SEC charged brothers Samuel E. Wyly and Charles J. Wyly, Jr. with violating federal securities laws governing ownership and trading of securities by corporate insiders. The Wyly brothers, the SEC said, reaped more than $550 million in undisclosed gains while sitting on corporate boards by trading stock in those public companies through hidden entities located in foreign jurisdictions — i.e. offshore tax havens — to conceal their ownership and avoid Mr. Tax Man. The Wylys have also been major league donors to Republican and conservative causes over the years. According to The New York Times,
“The Center for Responsive Politics found that the brothers and their families donated nearly $2.5 million to roughly 200 federal-level candidates and committees in the last 20 years. But after it was reported in 2006 that the Wylys were the subject of federal tax investigations, some Republicans distanced themselves from the pair. That year, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who was planning a presidential bid, and Senator Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, then the Senate majority leader, returned $20,000 and $5,000 in donations, respectively, from the Wyly brothers and their relatives.”
The brothers dismissed the investigation as a waste of tax dollars and seemed confident they would beat the charges.
“They’re gonna lose,” Sam Wyly told The Dallas Morning News in 2010, “That means we’re gonna win.”
But in March, a federal judge refused to dismiss the case. Two weeks ago the brothers were ordered to turn over several documents they had sought to withhold under attorney-client privilege.
Charles lived with Dee in an amazing 11,000 square foot home in the honeypot of Preston Hollow with a gorgeous conservatory, overlooking fountains. The home has hosted many charitable events and countless parties. The Wylys also employed Chef Darrin McGrady, who once was the chef of princess Diana.
Sam has been very involved in environmental businesses the last few years, including buying the landmark Explore bookstore in Aspen in 2007, which was founded by Katherine Thalberg. Explore staff members reported seeing Sam Wyly sitting on the floor at the store often, reading books, and cherished having an independent bookstore in the community. Went it was up for sale, he bought it. Sam Wyly is also reported to be a vegetarian and founder of Green Mountain Energy. The Wyly brothers also developed nine homes on 245-acre Woody Creek ranch near Aspen in 2001.
The Dallas Observer reports that the driver of the Ford didn’t have a stop sign, and that no charges have been filed.
Our very deepest condolences to the entire Wyly family at this difficult time.