The El Paso Inc. vs. Billy Abraham

The Caples Building, owned by the dastardly Billy Abraham
The Caples Building, owned by the dastardly Billy Abraham
You remember, no doubt, that series of articles by Robert Gray about Billy Abraham in the El Paso Inc. a few weeks ago. Here’s one, and here’s another.

In them, Mr. Gray highlights some of Mr. Abraham’s many personal shortcomings.

Abraham was sentenced to prison last month after pleading no contest for failure to stop and render aid to a man he struck with his truck while driving drunk in 2010.


Abraham has been in hot water with the city for years over the deteriorating condition of his buildings, which include some of El Paso’s most historic. Some he has owned for decades and are mostly vacant.


Over the years, the city has filed a number of enforcement actions against Abraham for code violations. And, in the past, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property taxes have gone delinquent before Abraham has paid them, court documents show.

Mr. Gray is also not above including grievances against Mr. Abraham’s extended family in his screed.

On March 12, 2012, Teri Finnegan, Lee Chagra Jr. and Joanna Krancher filed a lawsuit in the 327th District Court against Edward Abraham, their [and Billy’s] uncle, alleging that he mishandled the trusts.
Edward Abraham, who denied all of the charges, died on May 4, 2012 and left much of his estate to charity. The lawsuit continues to be active in court.

The relevance of all that dirty laundry to a story about the sale of an historic building is not immediately apparent. Perhaps Mr. Gray was attempting to shame Mr. Abraham. If history is any indicator, Mr. Abraham is incapable of shame.

The articles then go on to enumerate the many downtown buildings that Mr. Abraham owns.

“His portfolio of Downtown buildings is perhaps the most historic portfolio of all,” said Bernie Sargent, who wrote the letter [written to the UT Board of Regents, decrying the sale of the Stevens Building to Mr. Abraham] and is chair of the El Paso County Historical Commission.

Among the buildings Mr. Abraham owns:

    The Caples Building
    The Kress Building
    The American Furniture Building
    The Krupp Building
    The Stevens Building

Mr. Abraham also owns a number of other downtown buildings too insignificant to mention.

The tone of the articles is decidedly one-sided. No mention is made of Mr. Abraham’s foresight in securing all those historic properties when no one else was interested in them. No mention is made of Mr. Abraham’s personal relationship to the Caples Building. (His maternal grandfather was Richard Caples, and his father is buried in the Caples plot in Concordia Cemetery.) Is his neglect of the historic buildings worse than the destruction of the many historic buildings at the hands of the other downtown real estate speculators? When Mr. Gray wrote about River Oaks’ razing of four historic buildings across the street from the Caples Building, he characterized the buildings as “decaying.” If Mr. Abraham were to bring the wrecking ball to the Caples Building, would he get the same kid gloves treatment?

Mr. Abraham is far less than the ideal poster boy for downtown preservation, but he’s a lot better than the real estate speculators who are leaving El Paso a legacy of vacant lots. Mr. Abraham’s squatting on historic buildings is not unlike the purposeful destruction of the other historic buildings perpetrated by River Oaks and the Borderplex Community Trust REIT. Everyone is waiting for the economic winds to change, and make downtown viable again.

The difference is that Mr. Abraham isn’t pretending he’s doing us a favor.

One comment

  1. Well said. And remember the city all of a sudden several years ago became interested in the Fall Mansion and succeeded in taking it away from Mr. Abraham. I’m no fan of Mr. Abraham, but he at least hoards historic buildings. The city allows them to be torn down or, in the case of the Fall Mansion, spends public money to “buy” them and then rents them out for free.

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