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Charles Wyly, Dallas Billionaire and Arts Patron, Dies in Car Crash

by Jerome Weeks 7 Aug 2011 8:40 PM

The billionaire whose multi-million dollar gift helped build the Arts District’s Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre was killed in an accident in Colorado.


Charles Wyly’s $20 million gift to the AT&T Performing Arts Center helped build the remarkable Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre — but even as it opened, he was facing insider trading charges. He and his brother Sam had built a fortune by buying, building and selling steakhouse chains, Green Mountain Energy,  Sterling Software and hedge funds. Charles was extensively involved in Dallas-area arts (Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Children’s Theatre, Dallas Symphony) and philanthropy (Salvation Army).

The Wyly brothers were also influential donors to the Republican Party. What isn’t often mentioned, it seems, in North Texas write-ups, at least, is that they helped fund the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry.

Here’s The Dallas Morning News story. Wyly, 77, was driving his Porsche when it was struck by another car. An autopsy is pending.

What follows is the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s statement:

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.”

About the AT&T Performing Arts Center
The AT&T Performing Arts Center, a new multi-venue Center for music, opera, theatre and dance opened in October 2009, completing the 30-year vision of the Dallas Arts District. Located at 2403 Flora Street, the Center serves as a gateway from downtown Dallas’s business center to the Dallas Arts District. Featuring multiple state-of-the-art facilities that are woven together by a ten-acre urban park, which creates a dynamic cultural destination that is unparalleled in the world, the Center includes:
• The Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, designed by Foster + Partners in a modern horseshoe configuration, seats 2,200 (with capacity up to 2,300).
• The Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre designed by REX/OMA, Joshua Prince-Ramus (partner in charge) and Rem Koolhaas, seats up to 600 and uses a superfly system to rapidly change the performance hall’s configuration to proscenium, thrust or flat floor, depending on the nature of the performance.
• The Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons Park, designed by Michel Desvigne, is a lush urban park that unifies the Center’s venues with the Arts District and surrounding neighborhoods of Dallas.
• The completely new Annette Strauss Artist Square, designed by Foster + Partners, is the Center’s outdoor entertainment venue.
• Two underground parking areas accommodate more than 850 vehicles.
• The Center’s Resident Companies are: The Dallas Opera, Dallas Theater Center, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Texas Ballet Theater and Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico.