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Sun, Aug 31, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Chance remarks offer rare glimpses of Blue Chip Club

The aviation industry's most secretive male-bonding session is about to get under way in Wyoming -- and business is strictly off the agenda

By Ben Sandilands  /  THE OBSERVER , SYDNEY

Thayer, a long standing member, was the first pilot to break the sound barrier in a production US Navy fighter, and survivor of seven crashes, four in combat and three as a test pilot. But according to documents filed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 1984, it is alleged that he discussed at Conquistadores 1982 a takeover battle for Bendix Corp which was eventually won by Allied Corp, of which he was a director.

The pentagon connection

Thayer subsequently became former president Ronald Reagan's No. 2 man in the Pentagon as deputy defense secretary, but was forced to resign in 1984 in advance of a threatened prosecution for insider trading.

In 1985 he began serving 19 months of a four-year sentence negotiated through plea bargaining. According to the documents, two Conquistadores who attended the 1982 meeting and were members of companies who unsuccessfully tried to buy Bendix were prepared to testify to the insider information given by Thayer.

Since that withering encounter with the spotlight of publicity, the Conquistadores have returned to the anonymity and brotherhood of the Wyoming wilderness. Thayer even flew a vintage aircraft over the gathering in 2000, the year before diminishing eye sight forced him to hang up his goggles.

Even if this year's party is raucous, the participants will be hoping they don't attract much attention.

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