New York Magazine

CAIN AND ABEL AND OIL

An $800 million Louisiana fortune, lifelong grudges, FRAME-UPS, and an INCOMPETENT CONSPIRACY of off-duty cops—a SIBLING RIVALRY like you wouldn’t believe.

Bryan Knight was already sweating through his rumpled dress shirt when the cops pulled him over.

It was June 4, 2014, and Bryan, then 54 years old, was incredibly stressed out. He had just left a mediation meeting in Lafayette, Louisiana, with his elder brother, Mark; his younger sister, Kelley Sobiesk; and their team of respective lawyers. Mark and Bryan had for a decade been locked in a battle over control of their family company, Knight Oil Tools, the largest privately owned oil-and-gas-equipment-rental company in the world. That might not sound like much to boast about, but the company was worth an estimated $800 million; each sibling was worth over $100 million. The meeting, at which Bryan’s inheritance was at stake, had been contentious, and he found it supremely coincidental that, after pulling him over, the sheriff’s deputy almost immediately asked to search his vehicle.

The deputy had Bryan step out of his crystal-white Cadillac Escalade and quickly rummaged through the interior. He then reached under the driver-side door and retrieved two magnetic cases attached to the undercarriage. He opened them up, found a few grams of cocaine and 50 painkillers, and put Bryan under arrest.

At the parish jail in downtown Lafayette, Bryan was interrogated for over an hour. He was a longtime drug user, even a locally famous one, but he kept insisting, over and over, that the drugs weren’t his. With his phone call, he dialed Kelley, who was at their mother Ann’s house. He knew he had been framed and that his brother had done it.

LOOKING BACK on it now, nearly five years later, Bryan can’t readily pinpoint exactly when Mark turned on him. When I visited Lafayette in December, Bryan talked while he gave me a tour of the nearly 100,000-square-foot Knight Oil Tools headquarters, moving with a sluggish gait and favoring his left knee. Bryan will turn 60 in July, and he slurred, rambled, and fidgeted when he spoke, perpetually scatterbrained but trying to focus on the question of just when, and why, his relationship with his brother had soured so biblically. Was it his many decades of drug use and excessive partying, irresponsible and embarrassing behavior for the company and his elder brother, who had been trying to steer the ship forward since their father, Eddy Knight, died in 2002? Maybe the real turn started then, he thought, when Eddy died and Knight Oil Tools was, some years later, inherited in a retrospectively unsustainable three equal parts by his children. Or earlier—say, back in the 1980s, when they were both enrolled at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and didn’t speak to each other.

Or even earlier. When Eddy was starting out, the family traveled a lot, and Mark and Bryan were the perpetual new kids in school. They never really had any friends, which made them targets for bullies. Mark was a few inches taller than Bryan, with the same broad shoulders and round face, but Bryan was the scrappier of the two, and anytime anyone cornered Mark on the playground, threatening to grind dirt into his face, Bryan would be there, protecting his brother and handing out black eyes. The more Bryan thought about it, the more that period shone through the fog of their decades-long troubles: Mark didn’t resent Bryan because Bryan had wasted his own fortune, Bryan felt, but because he’d had to rely on

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