Our Hero

The most powerful man in Phoenix explains why he's just a regular guy

She informed Colangelo her organization intended to testify against the bill, and quotes him as responding, "I have a long memory and I remember my enemies."

Says Colangelo of the exchange, "I did not say 'enemies.' I said, 'I have a long memory.'" Why? "Well, for one thing she was a smart aleck on the phone with me. I called specifically with one request, and that was to ask her to not make this issue personal [by attaching his name to it]. I told her that it was not appropriate to make it about me."

Goldstein asserts that Colangelo did indeed tell her, "I know my enemies," and that his claim that he merely wanted to depersonalize the issue is outlandish. She says he "absolutely" tried to dissuade her from opposing the bill, which has since been watered down.

"I have been a lobbyist for 20 years and have never felt threatened," she says. "Clearly that was his intent."

"I am not trying to threaten her at all," Colangelo says. Throughout his interviews with New Times, he frequently spoke of the pain of being scapegoated and "used" by the media because he is in the public eye.

"This is a very good example of being used," he says of Goldstein's claims. "That is amazing. That is absolute amazing."

Whether or not he pressured Goldstein, he has pressured others.
Many guesses circulate, some already posed here, regarding the reasons for Colangelo's hypersensitivity. Perhaps the one closest to Colangelo's own comes from Margaret Mullen, a personal friend of Colangelo's who heads the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

She refers first to Colangelo's well-known role as a benefactor to local charities, to his investor status in the Orpheum Theatre, the Arizona Science Center, the Phoenix Symphony, the ASU downtown center--"investments" that will never see a profit because of the organizations' nonprofit status.

She says that he does so much, and is acknowledged so little, that he is frustrated.

"I used to think he wanted people to like him," she says. "Now I think he just wants people to understand that he is not doing all this for the money. He is rich, but not from the arena and stadium. He is rich because he took a risk on the Suns when they were going down the toilet and he turned them around, and that franchise is worth a lot of money now.

"He gets tired, feeling that all he gets is crap and not a thank you. And he also feels that the people who talk him into [projects and charities] don't stand with him during the tough times, particularly politicians." (Surely she can't mean Mary Rose Wilcox, who still has a slug in her butt.)

Less charitable is the Republic's Benson. "I think that Jerry has an insatiable need to prove that he is successful, lovable, acceptable," he says. "If he could build a sphinx with his face on it, he would."

Religion and Politics
He is a Christian man. The story of his conversion is a simple one.
As a child in an Italian-American family, he was raised a Roman Catholic. He learned his catechism dutifully and attended weekly Mass. His mother delivered him to a Catholic school on his first day. "After half an hour, I was asked to leave," he says. "The daughter of a lawyer was given my seat; it was the last seat. There weren't many lawyers in my neighborhood."

He attended public schools.
In college he met his wife, Joan. "She was different than most girls I had known," he says. "As I came to know her, I realized that she was a Christian and had a different outlook in life than me." The two were married in college.

After graduation, Colangelo went into the tuxedo-rental business with a friend from the old neighborhood. The friend promised him a partnership. When the partnership did not materialize after several years, he walked away. "It was a matter of what had been agreed to never being put on paper," he says. He was deeply disappointed in his friend.

Colangelo had lost direction. He began to attend church with Joan and found as a born-again what he had never found in Catholicism: a personal relationship with God.

"As a young guy, I was very self-reliant," he says. "At that point, I realized I needed more than what was inside of me. I became less self-reliant and more dependent on having this personal relationship with Christ. And a year and a half after that, the Chicago Bulls opportunity became a reality, and a year and a half after that, we came to Arizona."

He says he has "put some time into the pecking order of life. I know that my faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ is number one. Number two is family. Number three is work. The most difficult thing to do is continually keep that in mind.

"Those who are unable to keep things in perspective end up falling by the wayside," he says. "I have seen successful business people who have lost family and relationships, who are lost souls.

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