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Bush’s Uncle Earned Millions in War Firm Sale

Times Staff Writer

As President Bush embarks on a new effort to shore up public support for the war in Iraq, an uncle of the commander in chief is collecting $2.7 million in cash and stock from the recent sale of a company that profited from the war.

A report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission shows that William H.T. Bush collected just under $1.9 million in cash plus stock valued at more than $800,000 from the sale of Engineered Support Systems Inc. to DRS Technologies of New Jersey.

The $1.7-billion deal closed Jan. 31. Both firms have extensive military contracts.

William Bush was a director of Engineered Support Systems. Recent SEC filings show he was paid cash and DRS stock in exchange for shares and options he obtained as a director.

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Before DRS purchased it, Missouri-based ESSI experienced record growth as a result of expanded U.S. military contracts -- many to supply U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The contracts, some awarded on a no-bid basis, include a $77-million deal to refit military vehicles with armor for use in Iraq.

Other ESSI products used in the war include radar and detection services, field medical stations and field electrical generator units.

SEC filings show that two federal investigations of ESSI are underway. One inquiry involves a stop order from the government on the field generators. The order was issued because the units didn’t operate properly.

The generator contract was a major source of revenue. SEC files show that ESSI did not tell stockholders about the stop order until last June, about seven months after it was issued.

During the interim, several ESSI executives, including Bush’s uncle, cashed in stock and stock options worth millions of dollars, the filings show.

According to one recent filing, the SEC and the U.S. attorney in St. Louis are investigating the delayed disclosure and other matters.

Unnamed members of the ESSI board and corporate officers have been subpoenaed in the inquiry, according to documents.

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SEC filings show that William Bush, 67, exercised options on 8,348 shares of ESSI stock on Jan. 18, 2005, about two months after the stop order was issued and six months before it was disclosed. He collected about $450,000 in cash.

Bush, known as “Uncle Bucky” in the president’s family, joined ESSI’s board in 2000, several months before his nephew became president.

He heads a St. Louis investment firm and is the youngest brother of former President George H.W. Bush.

He declined to comment Wednesday. However, in an interview last year, he said he played no role in ESSI’s winning federal contracts.

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“I don’t make any calls to the 202 [Washington, D.C.] area code,” he said.

Patricia Williamson, a spokeswoman for DRS, would not comment on the status of the federal investigations.

The company has said it is cooperating in the probes, which also involve an ESSI insurance contract.


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