Samuel E. Wyly, known as Sam Wyly (born October 4, 1934), is an American Entrepreneur and businessman, author, 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., had about half his 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 & an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire, was published in September 2008. He is of Scots, Irish, Welsh and English descent. His forebears came to America convergently in the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s. His new book is titled The Immigrant Spirit: How Newcomers Enrich America.
Following high school, Wyly went to Louisiana Tech University partly working his way through college by selling class rings. His brother, Charles, had a football scholarship that paid tuition, room, and board, and laundry, plus $15 a month. Sam was elected class President and student senate President and participated on the college debate team arguing whether America should "recognize Red China." In 1952, known at the time as "Bubba" Wyly, he was the head page in the Louisiana House of Representatives, recalled one of the young men who worked under his supervision, Jasper "Jake" Smith, III, son of State Representative Jasper K. Smith of Caddo Parish. The Wyly brothers later honored one of their Tech professor, Robert C. Snyder, of the English department, with an endowed chair. And in 1983, they endowed the University with the sixteen story Wyly Tower of Learning using profits from their University Computing stock.
Wyly went to graduate school at the University of Michigan's School of Business in Ann Arbor, where he dropped the "Bubba" and became "Sam." In 1957 he received a Master of Business Administration. He was Michigan's first Paton scholar and was able to attend only because of that new scholarship. He took their first course taught in computers. He is one of five Michigan Business School graduates who are billionaires. He coded programs in machine language on the IBM 650 computer and learned the von Neumann concept in which both the data and the program are stored in the same memory. He saw the computer as being a productivity tool as powerful as the tractors, trucks and electricity that were increasing the productivity of American farm workers as much as 100 to one for his home parish cotton farmers, and sending farm boys and girls to work in the cities.
From 1960 to 1976, Wyly was married to Rosemary Acton. In 1978 in Dallas, he married Victoria L. Steele. Wyly and his third wife, Cheryl have been together for one-third of his life, and half of hers. They met in the summer of 1988, and they married in 1994. They live in an 8,450-square-foot (785 m) $7.48 million house in Highland Park, Texas. Cheryl is a former Texas All-State volleyball player at Farmers Branch High School and Valedictorian of Texas A&M's School of Architecture. When Wyly introduced Cheryl to President Bush 41 in 1992, Bush said, "These Wyly brothers have backed me in every race I ever ran—and they never asked for anything." Wyly has six adult children. Evan, twins Laurie and Lisa, Kelly, Andrew and Christiana—from his first two marriages. They have a tradition of holding family meetings every other month and an annual summer retreat. Wyly has 23 descendants and 31 family members, and his brother has 12.
After Michigan, Wyly went to Air Force Boot Camp in San Antonio and later moved to Dallas to work as a salesman at IBM's Service Bureau Corporation. Three and a half years later, at the time when Fortune Magazine described the computer industry as "IBM and the seven dwarfs," Wyly left IBM to become the area sales manager for Honeywell, one of the dwarfs, establishing their computer Business in Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Oklahoma. When Honeywell rejected his plan for a new Technology computing center to replace the obsolete Univac at SMU, he quit to do it himself. In November 1963, the month that Wyly Started his company, President Kennedy was shot in Dallas. Sam had taken a lunch break to watch the parade from the downtown Neiman Marcus store. He first saw himself as a computer guy, then as an Entrepreneur, and then as an author.
Wyly and his late brother, Charles, spent more than $160 million on a wide range of charities in the last 25 years. Earlier, in 1968, he set up the Sam Wyly Foundation to help black Business owners. It was run by Alan Steelman, who later became the first Republican elected from the 5th district of Texas, a seat now held by Jeb Hensarling, who worked with Wyly at Green Mountain Energy and Maverick.
In 1969, moderate Republicans got Nixon to appoint Wyly to the PBS board to help defend its budget. Wyly believed that the then three national TV oligopolies—CBS, NBC and ABC—needed competition.
In 1979, Wyly settled Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges that he made undisclosed payments to associates to buy up company bonds as part of a plan to stave off bankruptcy for University Computing after the $100 million Datran loss. He settled without acknowledging any wrongdoing.
In 1998, he had an excruciating choice to make when his friend, Perot, and his friend, Bush '41, both ran for President. Perot got 20 percent, and with two Texans on the ballot, "another Bubba" from Arkansas—Bill Clinton—won the White House. Perot, Clinton, and Wyly all grew up less than 100 miles from each other.
With Charles, he funded the Charles Wyly Sr. Tower of Learning, designed by the Bastrop Architect Hugh G. Parker, Jr., on the Louisiana Tech campus, 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 Salvation Army, Deaf Action Center, Human Rights Organizations (gay marriage), animal shelters in Hillsboro, Texas, and Aspen, health care for people surviving with Lou Gehrig's disease, and the Aspen Writers' Foundation. They Supported the Dallas Theater Center for decades, and more recently, were key contributors to the Wyly Theatre in downtown Dallas. In 2015 – Founded WylyBooks Company, a nonprofit to fund his storytelling about America's history and Future. He and his family are subject to a federal court "freeze order" which prohibits any spending for charitable projects, so Wyly and his family seek donations from others to fund this effort.
In 2004, Wyly 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. Wyly said in 2008 that he was not leaning toward Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama in that year's presidential campaign, and would not get involved in the race.
In August 2006, the Dallas Morning News reported that Sam and Charles Wyly were again 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. No Criminal charges were made by either Grand Jury. Senate investigators allege that the Wyly brothers used the offshore trusts to buy $30 million worth of artwork, jewelry, furniture and other items for their personal use. The Wyly brothers denied any wrongdoing, and stated that they just followed the advice of their lawyers and CPAs. They told the Senate Permanent Investigations subcommittee, chaired by Democratic Senator, Sander Levin of Michigan, investigating the offshore tax shelters that they would invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination; they were not called to testify.
In March 2007, commenting on the purchase of a local bookstore by Wyly 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." Wyly 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. They backed George H. W. Bush for President in 1980 and 1988. They backed George W. Bush's run for Congress in West Texas in 1978 and for governor in 1994 and President in 2000 and 2004.
On July 29, 2010, the SEC charged Charles and Sam Wyly with fraud for violating federal securities laws governing ownership and trading of securities by corporate insiders. The Wyly brothers are alleged to have profited by more than $550 million in undisclosed gains in stocks (Sterling Software, Sterling Commerce, Michaels Stores, and Scottish Annuity) while they were serving as board members. They allegedly, through hidden entities located in foreign jurisdictions, concealed their ownership and trading of those securities. On May 12, 2014, a jury found the Wyly brothers guilty of the charges.
Wyly and his brother Charles, older by a year, were close all their life. They played high school football, attended Louisiana Tech University, and joined Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity together. The brothers have worked together in a large number of businesses they've owned or run. In August 2011, just after they had their usual Sunday morning breakfast after church, Charles was killed in a car accident in Aspen's Roaring Fork Valley.
Sam and his son, Andrew Wyly, (with a Foreword by Walter Isaacson), wrote Texas Got It Right! in October, 2012 (Melcher Media). The book explains why California, New York, and the Rust Belt states are losing jobs to Texas and the Southern and Rocky Mountain states. In 2014, Dallas added more jobs than any other city.
On October 19, 2014 Sam Wyly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, along with Dee Wyly, his brother's widow, having lost the fraud case brought by the SEC.
In April 2015, the Internal Revenue Service filed claims amounting to $3.2 billion for unpaid income taxes, interest and penalties against Wyly and the estate of his late brother. His Lawyer called the IRS claims "unfair and absurd." The largest tax claim ever imposed against an individual. Wyly jokes that this was an IRS "billing error." "They sent us Exxon's tax bill by mistake. Exxon's headquarters is a few miles from my house." The SEC issue Wyly intends to appeal. The tax issue is set for trial in Dallas in January 2016.
In June 2016, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas ordered Wyly to pay $1.1 billion in back taxes and penalties for tax evasion, although judge Barbara Houser stated that the money "may now be more difficult for the government to collect given the passage of time and the dissipation of Sam's wealth." The IRS moved to collect from the offshore trusts that had been set up by Wyly with what the tax agency contended were the proceeds of tax fraud. Wyly's adult children Evan and Lisa Wyly in 2016 filed a motion to intervene in the case to prevent the IRS from accessing those funds.