Self-made billionaire Wyly offers a business pep talk wrapped in a memoir.
A Depression baby in Delhi, La., the author grew to maturity in the Texas money patch. That’s about all the personal material he offers, aside from tributes to his parents and brother. His chronicle of lucrative investment begins with a shrewd innovation back in the day when punch cards were state-of-the-art. Expanding from marketing computer-system software, the entrepreneurial Wyly devoted his energies to petroleum, minerals, service stations, seaports, paper and banking. The Bonanza Steakhouse chain and Michaels craft-supply retailers were among his picks. Today the tycoon invests in hedge funds and has embarked on efforts to clean up the environment, all with the fortune derived over four decades from IPOs, takeovers, raids, spin-offs, acquisitions and junk-bond funding by Mike Milken, a financier the author respects. Wyly does not like Charles Wang and his gang at Computer Associates. Though he may sometimes be disappointed with “my boy Bush” (our current president), he ceaselessly adheres to the teachings of, among others, Tom Watson Sr. (the IBM Thinker), Sam Walton (the Sage of Bentonville) and Mary Baker Eddy (founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist). His philosophy is quite folksy. “Business is a lot like football,” he asserts; “roots are good”; “obstacles are only challenges.” His humor is without frills. Asked what would help his business, the manager of Informatics’ Military Division got a good laugh from the suits when he replied, “A good war!” When considering a business, he advises, ask yourself if you can create customers: “Will the dogs eat the dog food?” Wyly may drive a Prius, but his autobiography is authentically Texan.
From nearly dirt poor to filthy rich, it’s his audacious, happy story and he’s sticking to it.