Neil Mallon Bush
In the notorious tradition of presidential brothers like Billy Carter and Roger
Clinton, Neil Bush has made a career of his
family connections. Trading on the Bush name, he’s partnered with everyone from
Syrian-American millionaire Jamal Daniel to
the Chinese government. And he’s reaping perks that go beyond millions of dollars:
his business associates buy him Kennebunkport cottages, Asian prostitutes, and trips
Neil Bush, 51, is the third of the five children of former President George H.W. Bush. He went to Tulane University, getting his MBA in 1979.
In 1982 Neil and two Colorado geologists founded an oil exploration company, called JNB Exploration, paid for by Bill Walters and Ken Good, Denver real estate barons and Bush family friends. Five years later, the company had drilled 26 wells in four states and found no oil.
In 1985, Bush joined the board of Silverado Savings and Loan, which had already lent millions to his investors Walters and Good. Bush lent his partners another $141 million. They, in turn, revinested some of that into JNB. Even though the company was losing money, Bush’s salary doubled. Walters and Good never repaid their loans, and in 1988 Silverado collapsed, costing the taxpayers $1.3 billion to bail it out. Within two years, more than 1,000 savings and loans would also fail because of similar conflicted insider transactions. The federal government paid $124 billion to bail out investors in the failed banks. Good and Walters later declared bankruptcy.
While many were indicted and convicted for the variety of felonies that triggered the savings and loan crisis, the Federal Office of Thrift Supervision merely reprimanded Bush, saying that his double dealing with Silverado and JNB amounted to “multiple conflicts of interest.” Bush claimed he was innocent but before the House Banking Committee in 1990, he admitted that some of his deals seemed “a little fishy.” Bush paid a $50,000 as part of a federal lawsuit against Silverado. Another Bush family friend, ex-congressman and bank lobbyist Thomas “Lud” Ashley, paid Neil’s legal bills.
Bush then started Apex Energy, a methane gas exploration company. He paid himself a salary of $160,000, invested $3,000 of his own money and got $2.3 million in investment capital from his father’s friend Louis Marx. The company never found any gas and went bankrupt. A later investigation by the House Small Business Committee questioned the $3,000 to $2.3 million investment ratio as “a very high leveraging of funds,” but ultimately said it could find nothing illegal about Apex.
For the last several years, Bush’s main business interest has been Ignite!, an educational software company he co-founded in 1999 with $23 million from U.S. and foreign investors. In 2002, Ignite! laid off 35 employees – half of its staff – and outsourced production to Mexico’s Grupo Carso Telecom, Ignite! pays Bush $180,000 annually.
One of Ignite’s investors was Jamal Daniel, a Syrian-American millionaire whose parents helped found the Ba’ath party. Daniel is a close Bush associate, who paid for Bush’s family to go to Disneyland in the midst of the Silverado scandel. Later Daniel bough Bush a $380,000 cottage for his family near the Bush family vacation compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Daniel founded Crest Investments, which Bush co-chairs and is paid $60,000 annually for his “consulting services.” With no experience in liquefied natural gas, Crest won a contract in Texas to build and run $400 million liquefied natural gas storage plant. The plant will result in annual payments of $2 million to Crest.
In 2003, Daniel and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour opened New Bridge Strategies, a firm dedicated to helping its clients get contracts in Iraq. It is chaired by Joseph Allbaugh, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President George W. Bush. Allbaugh and his wife, Diane, also own the Allbaugh Group, which has been hired by Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton, and the Shaw Environmental Group ID, to lobby Barbour for Hurricane Katrina contracts.
New Bridges invested in Diligence, LLC, a subsidiary of which (called Diligence Middle East, LLC) is owned by Mohammed Al-Sagar, chairman of the foreign relations committee of the Kuwaiti Parliament. Diligence has a contact to provide security for corporate executives and companies in Iraq.
All three companies work together, sharing staff and office space in Barbour Griffith & Rodgers, a top lobbying firm founded by Haley Barbour.
In 2002 Bush signed a consulting contract with the fledgling Grace Semiconductor, a Shanghai-based company owned by Jiang Mianheng (the son of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin) and Taiwanese millionaire Winston Wong. His contractual duties consisted attending board meetings and discussing “business strategies.” Bush, who has admitted having no background in semiconductors, was paid $2 million in company stock over five years plus $10,000 for every board meeting he attends.
Critics have speculated that Bush’s true role at Grace would be to persuade his brother to relax restrictions on the Chinese semiconductor industry. Under international treaty, the United States limits high-tech exports to China, including semiconductor technology, to prevent it from being weaponized by the Chinese military. In a 2005 hearing, the Commerce Department raised security concerns about China’s semiconductor technology being applied to military weaponry or systems.
The same year, Bush emailed his wife requesting a divorce. He was having an affair with Maria Andrews, a volunteer helping his mother and ex-wife of a Houston-oil executive. The messy divorce proceedings were sprayed across front pages: including his dalliances with Asian hookers. When asked if they were prostitutes, Bush claimed not to know if the women were hookers, saying they just “appeared” at his hotel room door. In March 2004, Bush and Andrews married at Daniel’s home.
- The Relatively Charmed Life of Neil Bush, Washington Post, December 28,
Neil Bush’s Business Dealings, Financial Times, December 12,
Cast Away, Texas Monthly, May 1, 2004:
Neil Bush: No Saving Grace, Business Week, December 8,
U.S.- China Economic and Security Review Commission
Ignite Turns to Mexican Company, Austin Business Journal, October 25,