In 1977, George W. Bush
took $17,000 from his education trust fund and $4.7 million from co-investors - "mainly friends of my uncle" - to set up Arbusto Energy
as an oil and gas drilling venture.
Arbusto, meaning 'bush' or 'shrub' in Spanish, hit the skids in the early 80's when oil prices fell. Despite his Harvard MBA, Bush only managed to return 20 cents on the dollar to his co-investors. None seemed very unhappy - leading many to believe the whole endeavor was nothing more than a tax shelter. Eventually Bush would rename the business Bush Exploration - perhaps because as Arbusto the company had a bad habit of drilling dry holes, earning the nickname "Ar-bust-o."
Interestingly, Bush created two subsidiaries of Arbusto Energy - Arbusto 79 Ltd. and Arbusto 80 Ltd. One of the chief partners in these ventures was James Bath - a friend of Bush's since his Air National Guard days. Indeed, both Bath and Bush were suspended from flight duty by the Guard for refusing to take their flight physicals.
Time Magazine described Bath in 1991 as "a deal broker whose alleged associations run from the CIA to a major shareholder and director of the Bank of Credit & Commerce." BCCI, as it was more commonly known, closed its doors in July 1991 amid charges of multibillion-dollar fraud and global news reports that the financial institution had been heavily involved in drug money laundering, arms brokering, covert intelligence work, bribery of government officials and aid to terrorists.
According to court documents, in 1976 Bath began representing four prominent and wealthy Saudi Arabians and used his name on their investments in the United States. The money Bath invested in Arbusto Energy likely belonged to his Saudi clients -- since Bath had no substantial money of his own at the time. One of these clients was Saudi Arabian sheikh Salem Bin Laden - brother of Osama Bin Laden.
Bush Exploration fared no better in making money and was purchased by Spectrum 7 Energy Corporation, in September 1984. For having lost 80% of his investors money, George W. Bush was rewarded by being named Spectrum 7's president and was given a 13.6 percent share in the company's stock.