Dallas Billionaire Charles Wyly Was Killed in a Traffic Accident in Aspen This Morning

Earlier this evening, word began circulating: 77-year-old billionaire Charles Wyly, namesake of the Dee and Charles Wyly Theater in the AT&T Performing Arts Center, had died. There were no details at first, but, slowly, they emerged: Wyly, in Aspen, was killed this morning while out running regular errands -- getting his coffee, the morning paper. Most of his family is in Colorado; so too many friends from Dallas. This is the entirety of the release from the Colorado State Patrol detailing the accident:

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.

Colorado State Trooper Heather Cobler adds in an email to Unfair Park that Wyly had stopped at a stop sign before pulling onto the main road into Aspen. The driver of the Ford didn't have a stop sign. No charges have been filed.

Wyly, of course, is the man behind the likes of Michaels and Bonanza Steakhouse; he and wife Dee have also spread their wealth to myriad charitable and arts organizations throughout Dallas. And, of course, Charles and brother Sam are the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation claiming they hid $550 million in profit over the last 13 years, charges Sam and Charles vehemently denied. (The court ruled only last week that they must turn over docs related to the case.) A statement from the AT&TPAC, among others, is forthcoming.

Update at 8:30 p.m.: "We would not have had the Center without him," says Bess Enloe, vice-chair of the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Board of Directors, in a statement. "He was one of the critical people who really made it happen. He understood how the Center, over time, would absolutely transform the city of Dallas, and he never lost sight of that." The AT&TPAC's full statement follows in full.

Update at 9:40 p.m.: And this, just in.
"Mr. Wyly was a role model, friend and inspiration," says William A. Brewer III, Mr. Wyly's attorney and long-time friend. "He is among the finest people I have ever known. His contributions in business, philanthropy and civic leadership will forever be remembered."

Charles Wyly A Founding Father of the AT&T Performing Arts Center

DALLAS (August 7, 2011) - The AT&T Performing Arts Center is mourning the loss of Charles Joseph Wyly, Jr., a major Dallas arts patron and a member of the Center's Board of Directors. He is also considered one of the Center's founding fathers.

"We would not have had the Center without him," said Bess Enloe, vice-chair of the AT&T Center for the Performing Arts' Board of Directors. "He was one of the critical people who really made it happen. He understood how the Center, over time, would absolutely transform the city of Dallas, and he never lost sight of that."

Wyly played a major role in the creation of the Center and its world class performance venues in the Dallas Arts District. One of the facilities, the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre is considered one of the most innovative, versatile and dynamic theater spaces in the world. The facility, designed by REX/OMA Joshua Prince-Ramus (partner in charge) and Pritzker Prize winning architect Rem Koolhaus has a highly flexible mainstage and audience space that has won accolades for creating unique and compelling new theatrical experiences. A $20 million donation from the Wyly family helped make the facility possible.

"Charles' vision and passion for the Center was always so clear," said Deedie Rose, a Board member for the Center. Ms. Rose is also the namesake for the Potter Rose Performance Hall, the mainstage in the Wyly Theater. "The creation of the Center was an enormous undertaking with so many moving pieces. He was always the voice of calm and reason. His clarity of thought helped everyone keep their eyes on the prize, and his financial contribution clearly was critical to getting this done."

The Wyly Theatre is home to the Center's resident company, the Dallas Theater Center and has received acclaim for its innovative use of the performance space. Other Center partners, including the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, the Dallas Opera and the Texas Ballet Theater all have performances scheduled in the Wyly Theatre during their upcoming seasons.

"He has left behind a tremendous legacy here in Dallas," said Mark Weinstein, President and CEO of the AT&T Performing Arts Center. "The Center, the arts community and the city has been truly blessed to have had Charles Wyly as their champion."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky