To his friends and business partners in this sprawling Sun Belt city, Glenn Ivan Wright, the financial consultant charged with masterminding the ransom kidnaping of Mexico City millionaire Edith Rosenkranz, was a man of many talents, obsessed with money and scoring big business deals.
An accomplished classical pianist, skilled tournament bridge player, former stockbroker, law student and condominium developer, the 42-year-old Wright moved restlessly from one field to another, looking, friends say, for a career that would support his lavish spending habits and expensive tastes.
"He repeatedly said, 'I want money and I want it now,' " recalled Brent M. Longnecker, president of Southwest Investment Properties and a former business partner of Wright.
"He had more tools than most people ever dream about but no patience, which in the end just killed him," Longnecker said.
"That boy's always been a spendthrift," said his father, R.H. Wright, a former high school football coach. "He is as liable to leave a ten-dollar tip as a one-dollar tip and not know the difference."
Late last month, shortly before authorities say he and two friends plotted the $1 million ransom kidnaping that later took place at a Washington hotel, a former business partner said Wright pulled a gun on him and demanded $20,000. The man reported the incident to Houston police, who investigated the allegations. No charges were filed against Wright.
Last year a man police identified as Wright's 23-year-old lover, Tony Bernard Ivey, was found shot to death in the bathroom of the condominium they shared here. Police questioned Wright, who discovered the body, but the murder remains unsolved and no weapon was ever recovered. Homicide detective Greg Neely said today authorities planned to "take another look" at the case in light of Wright's alleged participation in last week's abduction at the Sheraton Washington Hotel during the bridge tournament.
Yesterday FBI agents here interviewed Wright's former associates about Ivey's death and about his participation in the deals he hoped would make him a success in Houston's high stakes business world.
Wright's most recent venture appears to have been a company founded a year ago that was designed to sell tax shelters including real estate and oil and gas partnerships to certified public accountants and their clients. Partners in a firm called Wright, Hanks and Riely included Irvin Hanks, a former stock broker and now a business professor at Texas Southern University, and Terry Riely, a San Antonio businessman.
The three men rented a $3,000 a month penthouse suite in a smoked glass and steel office tower in the Galeria, a Texas-sized retail and office complex overlooking a man-made lake in Houston.
He told friends he planned to use his contacts in the clubby, upper class bridge world to attract clients. One associate recalled that Wright said he knew a Houston bank president as well as George Rosenkranz, the multimillionaire founder of the California-based Syntex Corporation. Riely said that the tax-shelter firm grossed between $80,000 and $100,000 selling an interest in an energy conservation device to be used by restaurants and businesses.
According to Riely, the partnership quickly encountered serious cash flow problems because of the huge overhead-about $11,000 a month -- as well as the expensive radio spot advertising -- at $2,000 a month -- the firm's financial services on KLEW FM, Houston's classical music station.
"He used to talk about how he would be the voice of Houston," said Longnecker, who recalled that radio seemed well-suited to Wright's stentorian voice and his penchant for precise grammar and diction.
As the partnership was turning sour, Wright was apparently also beset by mounting personal debts. According to a credit check performed last spring, he owed more than $30,000 to 16 creditors, among them department stores, finance companies and banks. Earlier this year Wright told friends his 1982 Oldsmobile had been repossessed.
The rent and utilities on his two-bedroom condominium located on a pleasant tree-lined street in Houston came to $850 a month. His landlord said Wright paid his rent faithfully. Friends say they believe he was supporting Orland Dwaine Tolden, a 25-year-old man whom he had known for three years. Tolden was arrested last week along with Wright in connection with the kidnaping.
A month ago, according to Riely, he, Wright and Hanks agreed to dissolve the partnership at Riely's request. Riely said he assumed the parting was amiable until Wright summoned him to his Houston condominium to sign some documents. Riely said that when he arrived at the apartment he was handcuffed and threatened by Wright, who pointed a gun at him and ordered him to write checks totaling $20,000. Riely wrote the checks but later reported the alleged incident to Houston police, who investigated the matter. No charges were filed by the district attorney's office, and Riely subsequently stopped payment on the checks.
Hours before the alleged incident involving Riely, Longnecker said Wright telephoned him threatening to sue him about the terms of a mortgage and demanded that Longnecker bring $5,000 in cash to Wright's condominium.
Longnecker said he refused to go to Wright's home. The next morning when Wright arrived at Longnecker's office to pick up the envelope containing $5,000 in cash, Longnecker said, "his hands were shaking so badly he could barely open the envelope to count it."
Longnecker, who met Wright two years ago, said he seemed unusually nervous in recent months. Money dominated his conversations. Longnecker's employes say Wright was fond of debating the relative merits of BMW and Mercedes automobiles, often talking about how he planned to have his suits custom made on London's Saville Row once he struck it rich. Once, Longnecker said, he proudly showed Wright a new $300 watch which Wright observed disdainfully. "He said the only kind of watch to have was something that cost $12,000 and was the thinnest watch made," Longnecker said.
Although it is unclear just how much money Wright was actually spending, the subject had long been a source of friction between Wright and his father, a self-described "old country boy" who taught physical education and coached football and basketball at a Houston high school.
R.H. Wright said his only child last year received about $100,000 from his mother shortly before her death from Alzheimer's disease. "She'd give him every last penny she had," said the elder Wright, who added that he has supported his son "for 42 years," sending him between $5,000 and $10,000 annually.
R.H. Wright, 78, who now operates an 80-acre cattle ranch in Groveton, Texas, a town of 1,200 an hour north of Houston, said his late wife refused to let their son play football or basketball, the two sports he coached. Wright said his wife was afraid the boy would injure his hands and be unable to play the piano.
Wright, who said he learned of his son's arrest from reporters, said he has not spoken to his son since last Christmas when the two got into a fist fight.
"We just fell out over his being a damned homosexual," the elder Wright said sadly. "I've known for about five years but I just tried to sweat it out and hope it would change."
Wright said his son, an excellent tennis player, studied music at Oberlin College. He also attended Northwestern University and a Houston junior college before graduation in 1966 from the University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in economics. University records show Wright completed two years of law school but never received a degree.
From October 1981 through August 1982 he worked as a stockbroker at Prudential Bache Securities but was fired from that job for undisclosed reasons, according to the firm's branch manager. On an employment application for the brokerage firm Wright said he had worked as a vice president of Alcon Development Corporation of Austin from May 1970 to August 1975. The firm is not listed in the telephone directory, but Longnecker said that Wright had had experience converting apartment projects into condominiums.
A woman friend who works for a large national real estate firm here said Wright took great pride in his meticulously decorated condominium with its small manicured garden and Steinway baby grand piano. Wright had told friends he'd decided against a career in performing because he couldn't stand the pressure of playing in front of other people.
Longnecker recalled arriving at Wright's apartment for a business meeting and standing transfixed at the front door as he listened to Wright play the piano. "When I got inside I asked him to play some more because it was so beautiful but he got very angry and slammed the piano shut," Longnecker recalled. "The thing about Glenn was that he had so much going for him but when it came time for him to put up or shut up, he'd just choke."