• 1934
    (b.) - ?


An American entrepreneur and businessman, philanthropist, and major contributor to conservative campaigns and candidates. In 2006, Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $1.1 billion. His older brother, Charles Wyly, Jr., was nearly equal in wealth; the two brothers were close with their business affairs, and were often referred to as the "Wyly brothers". Wyly's memoir, 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire, was published in September 2008. Born in Lake Providence, the seat of East Carroll Parish in northeastern Louisiana and one of the poorest communities in the United States, he began working at an early age, helping his father, Charles Wyly, Sr., and mother, Flora Wyly, publish a weekly newspaper, the Delhi Dispatch in Delhi in Richland Parish. He sold advertising, wrote stories, folded and addressed the finished papers, and cleaned the printing presses. Following high school, he went to Louisiana Tech University. He worked his way through college by selling class rings. He and his brother later honored one of their Tech professors, Robert C. Snyder, of the English department, with an Endowed Chair. Following graduation, he went to the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where in 1957 he received a Master of Business Administration degree before such credentials became so recognized. He is one of seventeen Michigan Business School graduates who are billionaires. He was able to attend only because of a new scholarship program, having enrolled as the school's first Paton scholar. After receiving his MBA he moved to Dallas to work as a salesman at IBM's Service Bureau Corporation. Three and a half years later he left IBM to become the area sales manager for Honeywell, establishing their computer business in Dallas and Oklahoma. His wealth comes from businesses that he founded and developed, or purchased and expanded. In 1963 he founded University Computing Company (UCC), which provided computer services to engineers, scientists, and researchers with Sun Oil Company, Texas Instruments, and others. He began the company with $1,000 and three customers. The company went public in 1965 and by 1968, sales were $60 million. In 1971, they were $125 million. In 1967, along with his brother Charles, he bought the restaurant chain Bonanza Steakhouse. He had initially started investing in it with money from the sale of stock in UCC. The company grew to approximately 600 restaurants by 1989 when the two brothers sold it. He Acquired Gulf Insurance in 1968. At the time, the company had free equity of $52 million and $63 million unrealized capital gains. He co-founded Earth Resources Company, an oil refining and silver and gold mining company, and served as its Executive Committee Chairman from 1968 to 1980. In 1970, he purchased Computer Technology, which functioned as the in-house data processing unit for LTV, for $40 million in cash and notes. He sold a computer terminal business in1972 to Harris-Intertype, writing off $32 million in investments. In 1973 he divided UCC into four companies, including Datran, which began construction of a nationwide system of microwave towers to transmit data among 27 American cities in direct competition with AT&T. In 1981, he co-founded Sterling Software which was sold to Computer Associates in 2000 for $4 billion. He bought controlling interest in arts-and-crafts chain Michaels in 1982. The company's revenues grew from $10 million at the time of purchase to $1.24 billion by 1996. In July 2006, Bain Capital and the Blackstone Group purchased the company for $6 billion. He purchased Frost Bros., a specialty retail chain, from Manhattan Industries in1986. After failing to reorganize while operating under bankruptcy protection, the company was liquidated in mid-1989. In 1990, he co-founded hedge fund Maverick Capital, which by 2003 had about $8 billion in assets. Beginning in 1993, his son Evan, a Maverick co-founder, and money manager Lee S. Ainslie III managed the fund. As of 2006, he was the largest stockholder of clean-energy producer Green Mountain Energy, and he also was the largest investor in the online social networking company Zaadz.com at an estimated 1.5m. In September 2006, Forbes ranked him as the 354th wealthiest American and in March 2007, Forbes magazine estimated his net worth to be $1.1 billion. In March 2007, commenting on the purchase of a local bookstore by him and his wife, Cheryl, the Aspen Times noted that the Wyly family "has been known not only for its philanthropic efforts, but also its large contributions to conservative political campaigns and candidates." He and his brother Charles have personally given about $10 million to Republican causes and candidates between the early 1970s and 2006, they say; both are Bush Pioneers. In 2000, he contributed $2.5 million to a group called "Republicans for Clean Air". In 2004, he also donated $20,000 to the Swift Boat campaign that raised questions about Sen. John Kerry's military record in Vietnam, helping scuttle Kerry's challenge to Bush. He said in 2008 that he was not leaning toward either Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama in that year's presidential campaign, and would not get involved in the race. He and his late brother, Charles spent more than ninety million dollars on a wide range of charities. In 1968, he set up the Sam Wyly Foundation to help minority businessmen. He also helped to start an educational TV channel in Dallas. With Charles, he funded the Charles Wyly Sr. Tower of Learning on the campus of Louisiana Tech, in memory of their father. The building includes a computer center and the university library. He also made a $10 million gift for Sam Wyly Hall, at the University of Michigan (2000), and is a significant supporter of the Aspen Writers' Foundation. In 1979, he settled Securities and Exchange Commission charges that he made undisclosed payments to associates to buy up company bonds as part of a plan to stave off bankruptcy. He settled without acknowledging any wrongdoing. In August 2006, the Dallas Morning News reported that he and his brother, Charles were under investigation by the SEC, a grand jury in Dallas and a grand jury in New York, regarding their use of potentially illegal offshore tax shelters. Senate investigators allege that they used the offshore trusts to buy $30 million worth of artwork, jewelry, furniture and other items for their personal use. They denied any wrongdoing, and stated that they just followed the advice of their financial advisers. They told the Senate Permanent Investigations subcommittee investigating the offshore tax shelters that they would invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination; they were not called to testify. On July 29, 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged them with fraud for violating federal securities laws governing ownership and trading of securities by corporate insiders. They are alleged to have profited by more than $550 million in undisclosed gains. The charges state that this occurred through the trading of stock in public companies on which the brothers were serving as Board members. They allegedly, through hidden entities located in foreign jurisdictions, concealed their ownership and trading of those securities.
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  • Noted For:

    Co-founder and founder of several computer businesses, one of which was Datran, which began construction of a nationwide system of microwave towers to transmit data among 27 American cities
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