Sunday, October 18, 1992

Pyramid Dreams: Pyramid Schemes, Part 3 of 3

How did Sidney Shlenker's Promise Die?

Commercial Appeal
By Louis Graham

Part 3 of 3 (Continued from Part 2, Part 1)

Fuji, the huge Japanese lender, bowed out over fear the company would not get the project completed. This wasn't another apartment development. It would be hard to find someone to step in and complete the pyramid additions. The Japanese would reconsider, but only if the city and county would guarantee completion.

Pyramid Dreams: Pyramid Schemes, Part 2 of 3

How did Sidney Shlenker's Promise Die?

Commercial Appeal
By Louis Graham

Part 2 of 3 (Continued from Part 1)

"At 76, I have no obligation to anyone in the world except my family - certainly not to politicians. In fact, if there is any obligation, it is the other way round. If my position is not crystal clear, please advise."

Clearly chafed, Morris fired back. But his letter was never mailed.

"In eleven years of office, I have never received a letter quite like yours of February 24, 1989. . . .

Pyramid Dreams: Pyramid Schemes, Part 1 of 3

How did Sidney Shlenker's Promise Die?

Commercial Appeal
By Louis Graham

Part 1 of 3

SIDNEY Shlenker faced his anxious employees with evidence of salvation in hand.

He unfolded a one-page letter, apologized for the hardship and uncertainty, then began to read aloud. The letter confirmed Shlenker had landed an $80 million loan.

Cheers, even tears of relief, burst from many of the 30 employees at The Pyramid Companies office on that May morning last year.

Shlenker rushed off to deliver the letter to Mayors Dick Hackett and Bill Morris. The city and county mayors had been exuberant allies, but as one promised loan after another fell through, they had grown impatient and cynical.

Pyramid Dreams: Pyramid Schemes: Cast of Characters

Commercial Appeal
By Colin Ruthven

(Main article starts here)

1. Sidney Shlenker. Controlled the day-to-day management of The Pyramid Companies as president and majority owner. Under Shlenker, the company took on responsibility for managing the taxpayers' arena in April 1989 and making millions of dollars' of additions. Also controlled city-owned Mud Island.

2. John Burton Tigrett. Recognized as the father of the pyramid project. Lobbied for tax dollars to build the project with commitment of private investment. Recruited Shlenker, then became minority owner and chairman of company resulting from their partnership.

3. O. Gene Bicknell. Chairman and majority owner of National Pizza Co. Company committed millions to project as sponsor and concessionaire. Bicknell evolved as possible replacement to Shlenker.

4. Isaac Burton Tigrett. Hard Rock Cafe co-founder and John Tigrett's son. Original signator on a deal requiring a minimum of $10 million private investment in the pyramid.

5. Dean Bonham. President of a Denver sports marketing firm responsible for selling $44 million in sponsorships and concession deals for the project.

6. A. Jerrold Perenchio. Wealthy Hollywood mogul and friend of both Tigrett and Shlenker. Responsible for introducing the two in late 1988.

7. James Goldsmith. British billionaire and longtime friend of John Tigrett. Controlled General Oriental Investments Ltd., whose stock figured prominently in the pyramid deal. Reputed source of a $1 million loan to the project.

8. Dick Hackett. Former Memphis mayor. Heavily involved from the outset because of the use of city funds in project. Defeated for re-election by W. W. Herenton in October 1991.

9. Bill Morris. Shelby County mayor. Heavily involved from the outset of the deal in 1987 because millions of county tax dollars were invested in construction of the pyramid.

10. Walter Richards. Chief financial officer, The Pyramid Companies. Followed Shlenker from a Houston investment firm to the Denver Nuggets, then to Memphis.

11. Marshall Criss. Chief operating officer and general counsel, The Pyramid Companies. Initially involved as John Tigrett's lawyer.

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