Charles Wyly killed in Aspen area car crash

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenAugust 7, 2011
Charles Wyly, a billionaire who bankrolled the Bushes and the Doles, died from injuries he sustained in his Porsche Targa on the outskirts of Aspen on Sunday after he was broadsided on Highway 82 by a sport utility vehicle.

The crash occurred just before 11 a.m., according to the Colorado State Patrol, which reported that Wyly was attempting to turn left on to the highway from Airport Road when a Ford Freestyle hit him.

Wyly, 77, hails from Texas but spent much of his time in Aspen where he owned property in Woody Creek along with his younger brother, Sam, who is among the 400 richest men in the United States. Sam Wyly owns Explore Bookstore on Main Street and is connected to a gallery and pub in Aspen.

Both brothers are generous philanthropists in Aspen and Dallas, funding the arts, animal shelters, education, the environment, medicine and various civic causes.

Charles Wyly, left, and his brother Sam.

Charles Wyly went to Louisiana Tech University on a football scholarship, then spent eight years at IBM before joining his brother in 1963 to start University Computing Company (UCC) where they turned a $1,000 investment into a fortune. In the 1970s, the Wylys struck it rich with oil and mining and they started many successful businesses such as the arts and crafts retail chain Michaels Store.

The brothers financed the winning presidential campaigns of George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, at one point drawing criticism for their Swift Boat ads against U.S. Sen. John Kerry in 2004.

They also are the targets of an Internal Revenue Service and Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into their offshore bank accounts that has resulted in a heated and drawn-out court case. The Wylys are charged with fraud and insider trading for an alleged $550 million in undisclosed gains.

The Wylys' lawyer William A Brewer III has been adamant in denying the pending federal allegations.

Brewer issued an immediate statement to address Sunday's tragedy.

“Mr. Wyly was a role model, friend and inspiration. He is among the finest people I have ever known. His contributions in business, philanthropy and civic leadership will forever be remembered,” he said.

Despite their financing of Republicans, including Bob and Elizabeth Dole and others, in a sit-down interview in 2007, Sam Wyly maintained he and Charles don't subscribe to any particular political party.

"Any political party wouldn't creep up to 30 on my interest list," Sam Wyly told me. “What I've done in the past is more like Scottish clan loyalty. I backed a guy who was a good friend of mine as a freshman congressman a long, long time ago. Then he had a boy who wanted to be governor and after he was governor for six years, he wanted to be president. It wouldn't have mattered which party he was in."

The cause of the Highway 82 crash is under investigation. The driver of the Ford Freestyle, Genezi Lacerda, 40, of Snowmass Village suffered "moderate" injuries, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

Charles Wyly is survived by his wife Caroline “Dee” Wyly, brother Sam, four children and seven grandchildren.

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