The Case For Hurwitz
Your April 25 cover article by Laurel Brubaker Calkins defames Charles Hurwitz. The heading, "The Case Against Hurwitz," sets the blatantly prejudicial tone of the article, which continues into the subhead, "for once, Hurwitz may have no place to hide," and grows more inflammatory with each paragraph of text.
The text begins with a fictionalized "first-person" account and then proceeds to misidentify Maxxam, a publicly held, Houston-based, much-written-about company, as a "secretive empire." A company spokesman's comments are dismissed as being said for pay, while anyone volunteering a negative notion about Mr. Hurwitz, however misinformed and unverified, is accorded the mantle of unquestioned objectivity and authority. Although your reporter did not meet with Mr. Hurwitz, she freely volunteers the views that his eyes are inexpressive and that his hair is jet black and slicked back; in fact, it is graying and parted.
The article piles innuendo upon innuendo, all with the obvious purpose of creating a passionately unobjective and untruthful portrait. Mr. Hurwitz and Maxxam are cited as the only players involved in the Pacific Lumber acquisition who were not convicted in criminal court. No criminal prosecution has focused on Pacific Lumber, and not only have Mr. Hurwitz and Maxxam not been convicted, they have never been charged with anything resembling criminal conduct.
While the allegations of the FDIC and OTS are quoted at great length, the responses by Mr. Hurwitz and other co-defendants in those separate actions are given short shrift, described as a "grab bag of possible explanations" and "catch-all defenses." I would have expected from the Press that a private citizen who is defending himself against the considerable weight of the U.S. government would at least have been offered a level playing field. It is regrettable, and surprising, that his positions are so cavalierly dismissed in your publication.
Allegations of "reciprocal bond trading" are false. These allegations have been examined exhaustively over the years without any finding of merit. There was no incentive or quid pro quo in our business dealings with Drexel. Contrary to statements in your article, the FDIC specifically considered the allegation of quid pro quo (advanced by radical environmentalists with a political agenda) and determined it lacked sufficient merit to become a part of the FDIC's claims. No person of authority has made your reporter's allegation that United Savings' funds were used to acquire Pacific Lumber.
The following points -- not one of which appeared in the article -- are true with respect to United Savings.
* Neither Charles Hurwitz nor Maxxam ever took a dime out of United Savings.
* They received no dividends, no compensation and no fees from United Savings.
* United Savings invested and made money in high-yield securities offered by Drexel and others.
United Savings failed when it was overwhelmed by the same forces that took down every major savings and loan in Texas: the collapse of energy prices, the freefall in real estate values, violent interest rate fluctuations and the precipitous, incredibly damaging actions by federal regulators. Mr. Hurwitz and Maxxam lost their investment when United failed. They made a bid to recapitalize United Savings that was over $10 million more favorable than the winning bid. Incredibly and inexplicably, their bid was ignored by the regulators.
Mr. Hurwitz does not "cast himself in the role of civic benefactor." He is a businessman who chose Houston as his home and is committed to its future. He has taken on a range of projects (like the effort to keep Continental Airlines Houston-based and the continued corporate and personal commitment to the Sam Houston Race Park) that only your reporter could twist into pure self-aggrandizement. Thankfully, the citizens of Houston have taken a more balanced view of these efforts.
You chose to characterize Mr. Hurwitz as a corporate raider, falsely implying that he is someone who seizes companies, disassembles them and pockets the gains. Even the most cursory examination (had you done it) of Pacific Lumber (acquired ten years ago) and Kaiser Aluminum (acquired seven and a half years ago) contradicts this unfair, inaccurate portrayal. Both companies are far stronger today than when they were acquired, in large part because of hundreds of millions of dollars of reinvestment. Far from being a "raider," Mr. Hurwitz is a long-term investor and builder.
Your publication had an opportunity to report and publish an authoritative, objective article. I personally met at length with your reporter and supplied her with the materials she requested, including written responses to her questions. Unfortunately, you chose to produce an article that is grossly inaccurate, unfair, misleading and defamatory.
Robert W. Irelan
Vice president, public relations
Editor's reply: As Mr. Irelan knows, Laurel Calkins' request to interview Charles Hurwitz was not granted. However, in a photo of Mr. Hurwitz supplied by Mr. Irelan, there does indeed appear to be a very small touch of gray in Mr. Hurwitz's otherwise mostly black hair, which is parted at a point between the middle and one side of his head.
Thanks to Michael Berryhill for revealing yet another developer/businessman/elected official who has manipulated his way to the top ["Murky Water," April 11]. I wonder how loudly Buster Brown and his GOP buddies have complained about Whitewater?
So now this sneaky reprobate is about to be rewarded by becoming the head of the Senate Natural Resources Committee? And politicians still can't figure out why the citizenry is disgusted.
I believe that as long as our society continues to allow most developers such free rein over our urban, suburban and rural environments, we all ultimately suffer. When there is no cooperative nor insightful regional planning, a sprawling glut of mini-malls and faceless, formless communities gracelessly appears where wetlands, seashores, farms, ranches, small towns and forests once stood. Community becomes purely property value, and politicians often cash in.
Many fibers of our society unwind as these developers deplete resources and disrupt our natural environment to build more outlet centers, new "safe" neighborhoods, access roads, parking lots, freeways, etc. The developer has become the civic planner and cultural purveyor. They pledge their pea pickin' little hearts out to the flag that proudly flies outside some banking institution, where they can keep their eyes on it from inside the tinted windows of the board of directors' room. Too cozy, too dumb, too unethical.
Mr. DeLay, Mr. Brown and all those mentioned in the Press article: clean up your acts, your greed is showing, and some of us are real tired of paying for it -- both spiritually and fiscally.
The Last Word on Jay and Ana
I do appreciate Steve McVicker's kind characterization of me as an angel ["Ana's Angel," April 4], but I never told Ana Prieto Canela, or anyone, that I was "there to be her angel." Also, I did arrange for Ana to remain in the United States legally until May 9, but U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's staff actually assisted in obtaining a visa for Ana's mother -- not Ana -- to fly to her daughter's aid. And I do not wear a white dress suit, nor am I "in charge of" my father's affairs. The nursing home in which Moie lives requires him to leave only with an approved companion, and his affairs are controlled by a bank.
The comments in McVicker's story by HPD's Jack Cato imply that Cato knows me and that we've worked together. In fact, we've never met, and I was never acting on behalf of HPD in this Ana issue. Cato is mistaken about the seriousness of HPD's attitude toward the kidnapping [of Moie]: the HPD sergeant who made the report actually encouraged me to file, as I was originally reluctant.
It was Ana's landlord who required the cancellation of her long distance service, and I then provided Ana with the option of prepaid phone cards. As for whether Ana had advice about agreeing to my handling her funds, either her mother, HPD family violence counselors, her Mexican friends or other local allies were present at all of the financial transactions. McVicker's mention of "an allowance of $600 a month" for Ana also is not accurate. Ana was set up with a bank cash card, with which she could withdraw $400 a day. Any other requests Ana had for funds (except the one for $17,000) were honored. And regarding the Harris County Hospital reimbursement, agency reps have told me that Ben Taub should receive at least $40,000. That will be nearly four times what they asked me for.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Steve McVicker replies: Jay Hamburger is correct in saying that he never told me during our interviews that he had introduced himself to Ana Prieto Canela as her "angel," but that certainly is Ana's recollection of their first encounter. As to his other points: Hamburger indicated to me that Hutchison's office was instrumental in seeing that Prieto was allowed to stay in the country through May 9, and he emphasized how surprising the senator's cooperation was, given what he referred to as her "strong opposition to illegal immigration." Hamburger says he is not in charge of his father's affairs, and while he may not directly control Moie's finances, he held himself out to me as his father's guardian. He also said that he determines when and with whom his father may leave the retirement home where he resides.
With regard to Ana's finances, Hamburger told me that it was his decision to terminate Ana's long distance privileges, and twice stated to me that Ana had an allowance of $600 a month. Not once during the several interviews I conducted with Jay did he mention the existence of a bank card. As for his contention that all of Ana's other requests for funds were honored, that is not Ana's memory of their relationship. Ana told me that she and Hamburger were often at odds over how much money she could send to her son in Honduras each month.
Finally, video taken on December 7, 1995, during the trial of Ana's husband, shows Jay wearing a three-piece suit that was beige to off-white in color.