Silverado 3: Ken Good (Part One) – Son of a Kansas Itinerant Methodist Minister
Updated – August 23, 2011
I was wondering why so many people have clicked on the series I wrote several years ago about different people involved in the Silverado Bank scandal in the late 1980s and early 1990s; one of the more colorful was Ken Good. I admit being pretty tough on him…
Now I understand. Ken Good died of cancer on August 13, 2011 in Dallas. He was 67 years old.
For a kinder, gentler take on Good than my own, read the following:
Ken Good Obituary 2 ( the Denver Post. It has a little more context)
Ken Good Obituary 3 (Tampa Bay.com)
Updated – April 17 2010)
- Running With A Bad Crowd: Neil Bush and the $1 Billion Silverado Debacle – Although the headline suggests the piece – from Time in 1990 – is about Neil Bush, it is a pretty decent summary from the mainstream press of the Silverado scandal with much info about Ken Good, Larry Mizel and the whole cast of stars
- The 1980s Savings and Loan Trillion Dollar Scandal - interview with Peter Brewton about the S & L Scandal of 1980s
Kenneth M. Good – `Ken Good’ as he was called during his heydays in Denver in the 1980s – hasn’t changed much. He’s still one of the lowest species on the great moral chain of being – a developer. After he left Denver his tuxedo tail tucked under his legs in 1988 or so – he went on to bigger and worse development scandals first in Florida and then in Texas, where it appears he still resides.
But he’s left a trail of devastation all along the way.
Among his post-Silverado development flops include a large project in S. Florida – Gulfstream, and an abortive airport development scheme just outside of Dallas. Good has declared bankruptcy a number of times, but always seems to have enough money buy homes in upscale communities.
An article in the St. Petersburg Times (May 28, 2004) gives a sense of the man. Good had filed for bankruptcy in Dallas in 1995, claiming he had no assets. At the time he was living in a neighborhood where the median household income was $41,000. But three years later he moved to another neighborhood where the median household income three times larger, at $121,000. (Of course there are some suggestions that the $121,000 figure mentioned in Dallas newspapers was about one fourth the house’s real value). Classic `Ken Good’.
Of course just after Silverado collapsed in 1988 Good also quickly declared bankruptcy. At the time he claimed he didn’t have the money to pay off his Silverado debts amounting to perhaps as much as $77 million, a good part of which is still to be accounted for. He was able to scrape up a $100,000 contribution to the Republican National Committee though and attended George Bush (the elder)’s inauguration party. During his more lucrative days, Good, like many others in a similar position, was able to store away his money in 174 private – and secret – trusts which only he and his lawyer know the true amount. (Wilsem p.192). So maybe even after Silverado, Good was not as broke has he appeared.
Possibly, he is in financial straits once again. Property in the name of Kenneth M. Good Sr. is facing foreclosure in Carbondale Colorado (700 Dorian Way) near Aspen, with back taxes owed amounting to $747,874.53.
Until Sept, 2007, Good managed to put together enough money – some $40,000 a year – to sponsor eight, $5000 scholarships to graduate students who intend to pursue careers in real-estate related fields through the Kenneth M. Good Graduate Student Fellowship Program. But it appears that program was then suspended `until further notice’ because of lack of funds.
It is not so unusual for gangsters, real estate developers, corporate thieves and other assorted low lifes, those who have made their fortune through hook or crook, but mostly the latter, to become philanthropists. Indeed it is something of a great tradition starting with the likes of John D. Rockefeller. And Ken Good has followed in this great American tradition.
The pattern seems to be: make your fortune one way or another, hide your money is a variety of carefully constructed and difficult to find slush funds either in the states or off shore, and then, having successfully engaged in financial and political fleecing, – in what might be described as one of the more cynical expressions of modern times – `give back to the community’ as they say through philanthropy.
Those that have successfully used their political connections to escape indictment, letting lesser figures take the fall for their higher crimes appear to have made out quite nicely all things considered. The smaller crooks, like my old acquaintance Arnie Zaler, get nailed; the larger ones have university buildings, museums and scholarships in their name. It is a way of putting perfume on the stench that was their lives, the proverbial `putting make up on the corpse’.
So why shouldn’t Ken Good have had a scholarship program in his name? Besides, it was probably a tax shelter.
But once upon a time, long ago, many weapons systems and financial crises ago, even before Ken Good, the son of an itinerant La Crosse Kansas Methodist minister, had to sanitize his name with the Kenneth M. Good Graduate Student Fellowship Program, in the mid 1980s, our good man was dabbling in real estate in the great state of Colorado, and for a while, was making – as they say in the language of business – `a killing’.
It was the mid 1980s. The country had barely emerged from recession, but the Savings and Loan Industry had recently been deregulated, opening up vast vistas for the likes of Ken Good and unheard of debt for American tax payers.
But life was Good for Ken Good
- He was screwing his partner’s wife regularly and advising her on how to get the most out of her divorce settlement.
- Some sources put his net wealth in those days at $100 million, others at double that which is more likely
- He drove around Denver in a maroon Maserotti.
- He lived in a 33,000 square foot home purported to be Denver’s most expensive in Cherry Hills – an over-rated suburb just south of Denver and show piece for Denver’s nouveau rich, Good had a $10 million mansion.
- Truth be told, it had something I’ve always wanted, – a plumbing system that pumped Scotch, gin and vodka throughout the house. (Washington Post, December 28, 2003. Final Edition).
- The house had 15 bathrooms all decorated with exotic marble and woods. I wonder how many doors the place had. My wife, daughters and I once spent a few days in a behemoth on St. Maartens. The girls, having nothing better to do, counted the doors which number 53. Since then we refer to the place as `the house with 53 doors’.
- In what is referred to as `the master bathroom’ `a huge plate glass wall allowed `you to sit on the crapper and get one of the best views of the city’ according to a real estate agent. (In Steven Wilsem – Silverado: Neil Bush and the Savings & Loan Scandal)
- Again according to Wilsem, the house was saturated with electronic toys and hidden rooms, one of them apparently a bomb shelter encased in concrete, sealed by two secret stainless glass steel doors and containing a direct telephone line to the Denver Police Department
- Home sweet home was equipped with its own health club which included an indoor frontennis court (frontennis is like jai lai), a racquetball court, bicycle trainers, an electric massage table, a 150 gallon saline flotation tub and marbled walled men’s and women’s locker rooms
- Apparently a wall-length mirror inside the women’s locker room was in reality a one-way mirror that allowed guests outside at the pool to watch the women undressing within.
As Wilsem (and others) tells it `if he (Good) loved one thing more than money, it was parties.’ He would arrive wearing a white dinner jacket, top hat, cane and tennis shorts
Good began his career as a developer where he now resides and would end it – in Dallas. Three years out of Southern Methodist University, he set up what was called the `Good Financial Corporation’ and bought up $250 million in Texas real estate in a few short years of frenetic buying. How was the son of an itinerant Methodist minister able to engage in such large deals?
That’s easy and is Kenneth M. Good’s first principle of successful development: always, always use other peoples’ money. This principle dovetailed nicely with the deregulation of savings and loan banks in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Well, if you want money it is somewhat logical to go to a bank and to have some connection with someone on the board of directors who can help facilitate the loan process. It is not clear who Good’s political contacts were in his early Texas days, but later, in Denver, he would master `the art of political connections’ through his relationship with Neil Bush, President Bush’s third son after George Jr. and brother Jeb. In any case, the Texas real estate market overheated and collapsed and with it Good’s `first empire’.
Leaving a mountain of unpaid debt behind, he picked up and moved to the Mile High City, Denver. And here, in a few short years, Good would make – and then lose – another fortune (or some of it) before moving on to Florida and doing likewise and moving back to Texas and doing likewise. Seems to be a pattern here. Not even the Mongols would have put up with him. Genghis Khan had a rule: whomever borrows money three times and goes bankrupt `…shall be put to death after the third time’. Not bad for a mass killer.
There is a lot of that Ken Good’s debt that remains not only unpaid, but largely unaccounted for. It is not been possible to track it all and from my own rough calculations, Good himself possibly borrowed as much as $750 million to a $1 billion during the course of his life as a developer. Not even Ken Good could spend it all. What happened to all that money? And what was Ken Good’s relationship to Neil Bush, to Denver’s Silverado Bank, to Denver developer Larry Mizel and attorney and political broker Norm Brownstein? How come the man never spent a day in prison?
Tune in next time for the second part of this entry on Ken Good.