Boomer bust

In the early 1980s, when oil was king, Bill Brosseau was the industry's crown prince. Just 35 years old and worth $10 million by his own accounting, Brosseau had an athlete's muscular build, movie star good looks, and a millionaire's accoutrements--a personal chef, an ostentatiously appointed condominium overlooking Turtle Creek, and a jet-black limousine with vanity plates that read "Argos"--after the ship the Greek hero Jason sailed in search of the Golden Fleece. He was, in short, a media dream, a camera-friendly geyser of charm and arrogance.

In an interview with Brosseau in those heady days, a Texas Monthly reporter asked him about a former partner and some investors who had filed lawsuits against him, claiming he owed them money. Brosseau, at the pinnacle of his success, regally dismissed the legal attack, saying: "Jealousy is the compliment that mediocrity pays to genius."

Not surprisingly, the local and national media crowded around Brosseau, anxious to profile the man who seemed to embody Dallas' nascent image--young, brash, and noisily successful. It was the go-go days of Dallas--fueled by high oil prices, cheap land, and the promise that sky-high profits would never end. Unfortunately, the Dallas of the '80s had the same relationship to reality and fleeting splendor as the television show of the same name. By the end of the decade, both would be embarrassing memories.

But thanks to writers who seemed never to tire of telling his story--and a savvy public relations man Brosseau kept on retainer to pitch it--Bill Brosseau became the '80s petroleum industry's pin-up boy. It didn't hurt that, at 6 feet 7 inches, he literally towered above nearly everyone, or that he was a flamboyantly committed bachelor, or that he was always willing to pose for a photo--especially if it was in knee-high, python-skin, monogrammed cowboy boots. In 1982 alone, he appeared in at least a dozen local, state, and national publications, including Money magazine, which put him on its cover for a story about "Moneymakers of the 1980s," and Cosmopolitan, which featured him as a "bachelor of the month."

Brosseau loved to take a reporter for a limousine ride to an East Texas state prison where he owned a producing oil well. While touring the prison grounds, he would recount his life story--how he grew up poor in San Antonio, the son of a banker who was sent to federal prison in Seagoville for embezzlement.

"When I was 12 or so, I went to Seagoville to visit him...and he was a miserable sight," a Dallas Times Herald reporter dutifully quoted in a story, one of the three the paper devoted to Brosseau in 1982. "And I was ashamed. I guess that's what I've been working at, proving that I could make it big without breaking the law or the rules."

Fifteen years later, it is the son whom federal prosecutors want to send to prison, and it appears that Bill Brosseau has more in common with his father than he ever realized--or at least admitted. Today Brosseau spends much of his time holed up in his three-story, $1 million University Park house with his girlfriend, Angelina, a doe-eyed Cuban refugee and former topless dancer he met on the beach in Acapulco two years ago, and their nine-month-old baby, Nicolette. And a day trip to a prison with a reporter in tow is the last thing he wants to do.

With gold-rimmed reading glasses perched on his surgically enhanced face--"to remove that tired look," he says--Brosseau, who turned 50 this month, pores over business records and legal documents piled on a glass dining-room table, looking for ways to extricate himself from what he describes as "one hell of a legal mess."

Bill Brosseau is, in the words of a lawyer close to his case, "in deep shit."

For the last two years, Brosseau ran Offshore Financial Corp. out of his home on McFarlin Boulevard. Much to the chagrin of his neighbors and the University Park city attorney--who successfully sued him for violating a zoning ordinance against operating a business in the neighborhood but has yet to collect the $24,000 in penalties--as many as a dozen salesmen would gather at Brosseau's house each day to pitch interests in oil and gas deals over the phone to potential investors around the country.

In September, the federal government shut down Brosseau's classic boiler-room sales operation after delivering him and his company a legal one-two punch. First, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil suit against Brosseau and his former partner, Ken McKay, for securities fraud, freezing all the company assets. Five days later, a federal grand jury indicted Brosseau and McKay on more than 40 counts of related felony charges.

In essence, both the criminal and civil cases allege that Brosseau and McKay used false and misleading information to lure more than 200 investors into pouring over $8 million into four oil and gas ventures. Brosseau and McKay, the federal court documents say, then diverted between $2 million and $3 million of the investors' money for their personal use. Brosseau sunk close to $170,000 of investor money into his Acapulco villa, and McKay put more than $100,000 into a nonprofit corporation--ostensibly a charitable relief organization providing food and shelter for needy children--through which he purchased an $80,000 Mercedes sports car, according to SEC documents. By the time the SEC shut down the company, only one well was completed--a dud that only produced about $10,000 in revenue--and there were no funds left to complete the other three.

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Ann Zimmerman

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