Millionaires Clash Over Shadyside Mansion

Despite all the Tenth Commandment strictures to the contrary, coveting the mansion next door has led millionaire executive Tony Petrello to years of depositions and lawsuits.

Even on the brightest of days, sunlight rarely falls on the streets of Shadyside. Giant oaks rise everywhere, offering a dome of respite, and, settled behind electronic gates, the neighborhood is almost preternaturally quiet and peaceful. The only cars belong to residents, and parents allow their children out during the day and in the evening without concern. At Halloween, trick-or-treating occurs exclusively inside the gates — where parents say it's safe. Where everyone knows everyone else.

Bought in 1916 by oil tycoon J.S. Cullinan, Shadyside was intended to be exactly as it is today. Where "congenial parties" could raise families inside one of its 16 houses, designed by famous architects like John Staub or Harrie T. Lindeberg. The homes still reflect the tenor of the time, with grand entranceways and wings intended for fleets of servants. It's a neighborhood steeped in history; Howard Hughes married Ella Rice here in 1925 — right in Tony Petrello's front yard no less. But as the city grew around the neighborhood, privacy and safety assumed greater importance.

In 1983, the Shadyside property owners' association bought the only two streets inside the community, Remington and Longfellow lanes, from the city, officially making the neighborhood private property. Gates were erected, meaning a stroll through Shadyside is actually trespassing, explained a private security officer who recently escorted me out of the neighborhood. That sense of exclusivity, or as Heritage Texas Properties puts it, "mystique," has attracted some of the city's most important people for nearly a century, and still does. Prolific writer and theologian John Bradshaw lives here, as does Donald Short, the former CEO of Minute Maid.

...and the sheer amount of space they have — 17,000 square feet — is enormous.
Photo by Patrick Bertolino
...and the sheer amount of space they have — 17,000 square feet — is enormous.
Tony and Cindy Petrello have attempted to give their disabled daughter, Carena, the best care possible — and that has included this atrium where their daughter once exercised.
Photo by Patrick Bertolino
Tony and Cindy Petrello have attempted to give their disabled daughter, Carena, the best care possible — and that has included this atrium where their daughter once exercised.

But even they, along with numerous other residents, expressed reluctance to discuss what happened in the Shadyside litigation involving Tony Petrello, Rahul Nath and the Pruckas, which has in some ways injected rumor and intrigue into this otherwise calm community. People have their theories about what really caused the lawsuits, but no one actually knows. "Once the litigation begins, no one talks," one Shadyside resident said.

On one side of that dispute there's Petrello, 57, who pockets $16 million in annual income and has launched at least five separate civil suits from New York to Houston. They've ranged from grand to not-so-grand. He once sued Enrique Senker and Senkgard, Inc. over a dispute involving his alarm system. One of the highest-paid CEOs in the nation, Petrello makes 22 times more than the median executive salary at Nabors and $24 million annually in realized compensation, according to data provided by GMI Ratings, which tracks executive pay. "Nabors has been one of the poster boys of excessive compensation," said Paul Hodgson of GMI Ratings. "This is not how you compensate a team. That's how you compensate a star, and servants."

And on the other side are the Pruckas, who made millions from engineering — and Rahul Nath. Once peer-edited as one of "America's Top Doctors," Nath, 55, has been one of the nation's leading researchers on conditions restricting range of motion in the brachial plexus, a dense network of nerve fibers running from the spine to the armpit. He's gotten loads of accolades. In 2007, both CNN and People did pieces on him after he offered to operate, for free, on an Iraqi infant.

But he's also gotten loads of criticism, and if any of the Texas Medical Board's pending allegations against him are true, Rahul Nath may have an entirely different, previously unknown personality. The board's 2010 complaint says Nath "performed prohibited procedures after notice to cease," exhibited "disregard of patient care and selection in the interest of financial gain," and evinced "a pattern of charging patients excessive sums of money to perform experimental surgeries."

Nath's lawyer, Daniel Shea, countered, "It's all bullshit," later saying, "He's the victim of a vendetta."

Nath's legal troubles, however, go deeper than problems with the Texas Medical Board. In 2006, in Harris County, Nath sued a former associate, Texas Children's Hospital, and the Baylor College of Medicine alleging he'd been defamed — a claim he lost, and in spectacular fashion. State District Judge Steven Kirkland said Nath's "groundless" accusations were "brought in bad faith" by a "bully," and ordered the doctor to pay $1.3 million in attorney fees.

It gets worse. Nath's former office manager, Brenda DeVaul, entered some damning deposition against him in that case. She described a doctor who "frequently" skipped out on patients to play golf, called resident doctors "lazy motherfuckers" and had expressed racism. DeVaul said Nath, whose private practice apparently made $6 million in 2006, was reluctant to see blacks and Mexicans because "they're on Medicaid" and don't pay as well.

In one of the stranger moments of that deposition, DeVaul said Nath had told her to arrange a meeting with — because why not? — Tiger Woods so he and Nath could play golf together:

Q: Was he kidding or serious?

A: He was serious. Because he wanted to play with Tiger Woods. Because he said, "He is good."

...

Q: Did you express the impossibility of —

A: yes.

Q: — setting up a Nath-Woods golf match?

A: Yes I did.

But that apparent disconnect with reality doesn't seem aberrant when one analyzes the Shadyside litigation, how it came about and what happened afterward. Nath and Petrello, in perhaps the greatest testimony to their litigious natures, had exactly one meeting before the lawsuits began. They haven't spoken since, instead corresponding exclusively through a tizzy of amended claims and lawyerese. Indeed, even for this article, their refusal to discuss anything hasn't been surprising. What has been: Almost no one's wanted to talk, and especially not if his or her name would be printed. Why risk a million-dollar defamation suit? several people asked.

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23 comments
BMJ247
BMJ247

Petrello bought the adjacent house at 18 Sunset and tore down the historic home there.  That's why Prucka thought Petrello might do the same with his.  But that didn't matter when he got a full price cash offer from the Naths.  Petrello recently bought another house at 1816 Rice for $4.5 M.  He purchased it through his friend Avi Ron's corporation, CAC Campus Holdings.  He had previously made an offer of $4.9M through realtor Laura Sweeney at John Daugherty Realtors.  After the offer was accepted he screwed her over too and anonymously used the co. to buy it for less.  Such a class act!

Anon2012
Anon2012

I used to own a house on Dora which is the street that backs up to Petrello's property. In fact, most of the traffic to and from Petrello's house uses Dora for access. Dora street is very prone to flooding. During Allison and Ike, and other big storms, the street could easily be under five feet of water in no time at all. Then it would take forever to drain - resulting in cars getting flooded, garages getting flooded, etc. 

 

It seemed as through Petrello's house was always under renovation as traffic to the house was constant. During one of these renovations, they installed a pump that cleared his property of water during storms. I found this out the hard way - during a bad storm, I was looking out in front of my house to see where the level of water was reaching, then looked down the street towards his property and saw a gusher of water. I walked over to investigate, and yeup, every few minutes, there would be this gusher coming from a pipe installed underneath a new sidewalk coming straight from his property. I've never met the man, but knowing that the street he uses on a regular basis, Dora, floods easily and then installing a pump that forces even more water onto the street not only makes him a bad neighbor, but also a DICK of monumental proportions. 

2012houstonproud
2012houstonproud

Anon & Insider.  What lot are you finding that Petrello purchased from Ms. Hobby?  When I search for the owner name "Petrello" on HCAD.org all that shows up other than 10 Remington is 18 Sunset. That part of Sunset is  too busy and too public for the daughter's place anyway if somebody had the money Petrello supposedly has, and  HCAD shows that Petrello purchased that property from a C M Hudspeth (not Hobby).   (I drive through that section of Sunset a lot, and it is often basically a traffic jam at peak times.  Still nice because of being right by Rice, but not in the zone of being super nice.)  Has Petrello used some sort of a front company for another purchase?  

anon
anon

He already bought connecting property from ms hobby as mentioned below. his insurance doesnt cover the amount of damage endured to his house because he was cheap and he didnt think his house would burn down... i assume theyre waiting for insurance money which if it depends on them and their slacking group of servants to finish....will take forever... ive never done an insurance claim as high as theirs must be.

private1701a
private1701a

Duh. CapObvious.  Petrello’s probably actually leveraged to the hilt and nearly broke.  Happens to lots of super high income guys that try to keep up appearances.  Otherwise he would have just written checks and moved on.  If you really had that kind of wealth, would you live in a hotel or a on a huge estate in a hyper exclusive gated community?  Yep.  Out of dough.

thecaptobvious123
thecaptobvious123

If Petrello really wanted the Nath’s property for his daughter and was going to renovate the house anyway as he said, why doesn’t he just purchase some other contiguous property and move on  with his life?  Just asking.

miss_msry
miss_msry topcommenter

Shouldn't the hed have read:  Millionaire Mansion Mash?

Insider.
Insider.

Ms Hobbys land was purchased by Mr Petrello, the house was torn down so that he can use it for gardens and a large poolhouse for parties. He already has plenty of land to build another house on and he could build it exactly as he wanted. This is a case of a very grumpy angry wealthy man not getting his way and USING his poor daughter as the "reason." Hes just a sore looser and refuses to not get his way. 

wearealltrash
wearealltrash

"Everyone, listen! Shadyside could be cool and groovy if we treated each other fair! It's Petrello ! He's made us all into a pyramid, and he put himself on top!"

johnjay739
johnjay739

Hmmmm ...... I've wondered why someone called Petrello a "modern day Satan" in the Vanity Fair story.  This story may provide insight.    I voted for Bill White for mayor as well as governor, but after finding out he took money from Petrello, he wouldn't get my vote again.

miss_msry
miss_msry topcommenter

Oh, John Bradshaw, sneaking into Montrose to eat ice cream while perusing the skin magazines at Hollywood.

Hilda311
Hilda311

Sounds like another reality show... Not interested but thanks for letting me know.

 

reedpappy
reedpappy

Shadyside was originally a neighborhood of friends, where everyone knew everyone prior to moving there.  The original owners were among the wealthiest and most powerful people in Houston.  The restrictions required that anyone wishing to move to the exclusive neighborhood in the future would have to have unanimous approval of the other residents.  The purpose of this was to keep riff-raff out -- including people of the caliber mentioned here.  Restrictions also prohibited external architectural changes, unless unanimously approved by residents.  Mrs. W.P. Hobby wanted to make some changes to her home which were vetoed by at least one other resident.  She responded by having her house torn down and leaving the land vacant, while moving elsewhere.  She has since passed on, and I have not heard what became of the land. 

Ronbo12
Ronbo12

This is a case of Bullying, just like the stuff that goes on in grade schools. This guys theory is "my way of my way" and uses his $$$ to enforce his will. I have alot of compassion for his situation with his daughter but his inability to accept life's dissappointments discredits his achievements and contributions.

mjhellund1
mjhellund1

It's a bitch out there for a rich guy. I say, the one with the car elevator wins. It's only fair.

Anse
Anse

I just hope Romney wins and gets these guys a tax cut pronto. Imagine the job creation in the legal industry!

Modernsnob
Modernsnob

@HoustonPress Wow, better than a made for TV movie..long reads is an understatement. I had to make notes to stay connected #longreads

Discgolfer22
Discgolfer22

I hope I don't get sued for this, but what an idiot!!!!

Lickmyass
Lickmyass

The petrello and avi Ron are both greedy scoundrels I worked with both of them for years. And jj is just a cook. Who is the delivery boy for his rich want to be friends that he can't afford to hang with unless they are buying.

2012houstonproud
2012houstonproud

 @BMJ247  HCAD shows 1816 Rice as having a homestead exemption.  How can an LLC qualify for a homestead exemption?  

private1702
private1702

@private1701a You have no idea what you're talking about.

2012houstonproud
2012houstonproud

 @BMJ247 "No one has lived in the Petrellos' house for nearly three years."  Yet HCAD shows both 10 Remington and 18 Sunset as having a homestead exemption.  How many homestead exemptions can someone have?  Don't you have to live in the house to qualify?  Doesn't sound fair.  

 
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