Longform

The Brothers Graham (Part I)

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"You've never seen anybody like these people," says a Kingwood man who, while an executive with a national securities firm, did business with the Grahams. "I mean, it's dang near bizarre. These guys got to show it all the time. If you don't have a Rolls, you're supposed to have a Mercedes, and your wives are supposed to wear diamonds.

"Even now, after all the stuff that's happened, they still walk around like they are better, richer, smarter than everybody. They have no remorse."

Aformer associate of the Graham brothers tells a story he attributes to Harold Graham's doctor, who said the old man once told him, "I have two sons. One will never tell you the truth. The other will never tell you a lie. And I don't have to tell you which is which."

Ask around, and many people simply can't believe Pat Graham would try to arrange the escape of a maximum-security inmate from TDCJ. They say it sounds more like Mike Graham's doing. He's a hungrier sort, they say, more calculating and greatly enamored of his capabilities.

Pat, on the other hand, is earthier -- relatively speaking, of course. He married his high school sweetheart, and, according to those who have enjoyed the experience, he's someone you can have a beer with. But as far as dealing with the likes of Dana McIntosh, who stabbed his wife to death for the insurance money E.

"Pat wouldn't be associated with anyone like that," says a former N-Group employee. "Something's very weird there."

Joined at the hip is the expression often used to describe Mike and Pat. Indeed, except for a time in the mid-eighties, they have been in business together for the past 20 years. Their families have remained geographically close as well, seldom living more than a few miles apart.

Physically and temperamentally, however, they evoke another clich: Like night and day. Mike, age 47, is a husky man, soft-bodied, blond and fleshy about the face. He wears wire-rimmed glasses, favors watches made by Rolex and buys his suits at Norton Ditto. Pat, who recently turned 46, stands a full head shorter than his brother, though his slighter build makes him look even smaller. Pat's dark brown hair is thinning, except at the top of his head where there is none.

Their personalities are equally distinct. An attorney who has represented both Grahams suggests that combining Pat and Mike in one body would create one hell of a salesman.

"Pat is, in a classic sense, more of a seller," the attorney says. "He's softer, more engaging and more pleasant. Mike's personality is the closer. Mike's more heavy-handed, more abrupt, more in your face."

And more demanding of center stage. Apparently, Pat was not exempt from his brother's frequent displays of egomania. There was nothing equal about the relationship, and though Pat tried on at least one occasion, he never really made much of an effort to escape Mike's dominance. Instead, he would cede control of their joint business affairs to his brother.

It's now impossible to say whether Pat, if he had exercised more independence, would have saved himself some grief later on. From those who've been burned by the Grahams, Mike elicits a rancor that is strong and immediate. The take on Pat is sometimes softened by a subtle empathy.

"My pattern with them," says the former associate from The Woodlands, "is that Mike was always the guy with the ideas, and he was always telling Pat that Pat was too stupid to do anything on his own."

After the forklift business folded in 1983, the Graham brothers went their separate ways. What direction Pat took is hard to chart, although just before he and Mike formed Bankers Capital Management, an investment banking firm, in 1986, he was working for a prefabricated building company in Victoria.

By 1985, Mike was selling luxury condominiums and limited partnerships for two subsidiaries of Century Development, the Kenneth Schnitzer company that built Greenway Plaza and other landmarks of the Houston real estate boom. By all accounts, Mike thrived, becoming one of the company's top movers of investments that provided tidy tax write-offs for the well-to-do.

To that end, Century exposed Mike Graham to a class of people he hadn't had much experience with. They were known within the company as Regulation D investors, people with wealth and, sometimes, power -- attributes that Mike Graham would never deny he coveted. Among the contacts he made was Billy Clayton, who, upon his retirement from the Legislature in 1983, had been the longest-reigning Speaker of the House in Texas history. As a private citizen, Clayton was a lobbyist for corporate clients, and while lobbying for Century, took a cut of at least one commission earned by Mike Graham.

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Brian Wallstin