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The Amphitheatre and Richard Mallery

Richard Mallery is so smooth. He has the velvet touch. In a real estate deal, there's no one who can touch him.

Mallery is the slickest operator in the West.
A senior partner at the powerhouse law firm of Snell & Wilmer, Mallery was a founding member of the Phoenix 40.

He is the power behind the Phoenix City Council's decision to virtually give away a controversial 18,000-seat rock concert amphitheatre to Florida promoter Zev Bufman.

It has been said that Mallery, the silk-stockinged profiteer, has enough gall to be divided into three parts. Over the years, he's been at the center of several real estate deals so questionable that they became the subject of a lengthy Bar Association investigation.

Mallery eventually emerged unscathed from the investigation.
But at one point his questionable activities made it necessary for him to resign from a high-powered business group that was pushing to build a downtown domed stadium. The resignation came after it was learned Mallery secretly owned land adjacent to the proposed stadium site.

Mallery was briefly in disgrace, even at the Arizona Republic, which had long been one of his power bases.

But Mallery has too much chutzpah to be embarrassed for long.
Besides, Arizona is a place where there virtually is no such thing as a conflict of interest. When a lucrative land deal is on the line, no holds are barred. There is no social stigma here that can possibly attach to a man who wants to make a killing.

So Mallery's back in business. It's as though no one ever suspected he couldn't be trusted.

Mayor Terry Goddard and his gang don't seem to care about the embattled residents of the area around the proposed amphitheatre. They are convinced it will ruin their neighborhood, lower their property values and destroy their quality of life.

Why should the city council be concerned?
Neither Goddard nor any councilmember lives close enough to this monstrosity to be affected.

It won't lower the property values of Goddard's home in Encanto. Neither will it change the property values of the homes of any member of the city council.

And it most certainly won't affect the property values of Mallery's impressive mansion.

Mallery lives on a secluded and charming tree-shaded street in the ultra-fashionable Biltmore district. The neighborhood is protected by city-granted barriers that keep normal traffic out.

Mallery's neighbors at his 2201 East Georgia address read like a who's who on the Phoenix power chart.

They include: Karl Eller, owner of Circle K; Dino DeConcini, the brains behind Senator Dennis DeConcini's land deals; Kemper Marley, the mysterious multimillionaire who has become famous as the man who was never indicted in the Don Bolles murder; and Carolyn Warner, the political doyenne who still yearns to be governor.

How could this amphitheatre deal happen? If you check the documents available in public records, it's really amazingly simple.

It hinges on Mallery's smoothness and the willingness of city councilmembers to be duped.

Last May, Mallery invited Mayor Goddard and all the members of the city council to a cozy gathering at the Heard Museum.

The fancy party was held to introduce Zev Bufman, a smooth-talking theatrical promoter and part owner of the new NBA franchise in Miami.

After cocktails and suitable refreshments, a presentation was made by Mallery's people showing what a wonderful thing the amphitheatre would be for the city.

It would be like Wolf Trap outside Washington, D.C., or Blossom outside Cleveland, Bufman said.

It would be a state-of-the-art design and would follow all the ordinances of the city.

Mallery and Bufman didn't sell the amphitheatre as a noisemaker that would attract thousands of troublemakers with motorcycles and pickup trucks.

At the time, there was no information that parking for 6,000 cars would be on a dirt lot that could turn the whole area into a dust bowl.

Mallery and Bufman are smarter than that.
The new amphitheatre, they said, would give people an opportunity to see top Broadway shows at affordable prices. There would be relaxing evenings under the stars with symphony orchestras.

The city council bought the whole deal right from the start.
Who realized how closely wired in Mallery was to the whole deal? Certainly, Mayor Goddard had to know. So did anyone else who has ever watched Mallery operate. Mallery, it turns out, was not only wired in. Mallery was the deal.

No one at City Hall ever even bothered to check out Bufman's financial status. Bufman was accepted by the city council on Mallery's word that he was all right.

What does Mallery get out of all this?
Even though the first shovelful of dirt has yet to be turned, a liquor license has already been awarded to the 18,000-seat facility.

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Tom Fitzpatrick