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.

Millionaires Clash Over Shadyside Mansion

See pictures of 8 Remington Lane and 10 Remington Lane in our slideshow.

It was just after 6 on a still Friday evening in December when a man Rahul Nath had never seen before approached his beige-brick two-story mansion tucked behind the iron gates among the oak trees. The doorbell wasn't working, so the man walked inside and began calling for Nath. In the weeks and years that followed, as this day was laboriously parsed and unpacked over hours of court testimony and depositions, this man, J.J. Cortez, was called many things. He was cast as a servant, a chef, an employee, someone who could intimidate. But at this moment, as Nath, an affluent surgeon, descended a broad stairwell to greet this unexpected stranger, Cortez wasn't anything other than a messenger.

And the message was this: You've been summoned. Your next-door neighbor, Tony Petrello, wants to see you. Nath, still clad in scrubs from work, had never heard of Petrello. He'd just agreed to purchase the house — for the staggering sum of $8.3 million — earlier that week. Nath, surprised and fearing some medical emergency, pattered after Cortez. They passed through an eight-foot iron gate and onto a driveway where, before a 17,000 square-foot manor, Petrello waited. Then began an encounter unlike any Nath had had before.

Tony Petrello's house (left) and Rahul Nath's home (right) have little space between them. If Petrello ultimately succeeds in buying Nath's house, he'll have the largest estate in Shadyside.
Photo by Patrick Bertolino
Tony Petrello's house (left) and Rahul Nath's home (right) have little space between them. If Petrello ultimately succeeds in buying Nath's house, he'll have the largest estate in Shadyside.
Tony and Cindy's art collection is renowned in Houston...
Photo by Patrick Bertolino
Tony and Cindy's art collection is renowned in Houston...

Arms crossed and leaning forward, was a bespectacled and jowly Anthony G. Petrello, one of the richest men in Houston. A widely known philanthropist in the medical community, he's the CEO of Nabors Industries, the largest land-based oil-drilling company in the world. "The most powerful man in town," one lawyer calls him.

Their conversation as they stood there, reconstructed through court testimony and depositions, is remembered very differently by both men. Neither agreed to speak with the Houston Press. According to Nath's deposition, he said hello to Petrello, but moments later felt threatened and discomforted. Petrello, whose every word carries New Jersey twang, was shouting and wouldn't make eye contact. Petrello started in on his demands: He and his wife, Cindy, needed Nath's house. His daughter, Carena, was disabled, and the house effectively belonged to him. He'd already orally claimed it, and Nath had to leave immediately.

Nath's house, a 1920s affair with a wine cellar and servants' chambers, was supposed to be a personal "clinic" for his handicapped daughter, Petrello said. There were plans to reconfigure it entirely. Petrello, Nath said, then raised his arm and pointed down the street, 100 yards in the distance. "You'd be better off living down the street, not next door," he said. "We could buy your house and you could potentially rent it from us for a few days, but you'd be better off living down there."

Nath, of Indian ethnicity, discerned bigotry, saying Petrello belittled him like "one of his servants." He surmised the oilman didn't want people like him and his wife, Usha, as neighbors, and was "humiliated." (Everyone the Press talked to who knows Petrello vociferously decried allegations of ­bigotry.)

Judging from Petrello's deposition, it seems as though he'd attended an entirely different meeting. To him, this was a "pleasant" talk — downright neighborly. He told Nath, who was exceedingly friendly, that his daughter had cerebral palsy and he wanted to use the house for her care. He'd heard another house was about to open up in the neighborhood. So would Nath kindly step aside? The men parted like bowling buddies.

Despite the competing narratives, one fact never changed: Petrello's got a huge crush on the house next door. This became utterly apparent over the coming years as the oilman deployed fleets of expensive lawyers, voluminous lawsuits and millions of dollars in what would become something of a crusade to claim the property — Petrello's whale, sitting in eyesight at all times, but out of reach. His dedication to the quest has made some Shadyside residents a little nervous. Murmurs shot through the community, three unrelated sources familiar with Shadyside said. Perhaps Nath's house was only the beginning. Everyone knew Petrello was rich. Maybe there were plans to annex more of the neighborhood.

The few agreed-upon facts are these: In 2007, Petrello's former next-door neighbors, Matt and Sheri Prucka, decided to move to Park City, a mountainous resort town in Utah, departing this small and wealthy community. Petrello heard the news and told Prucka he was interested in buying his house for $8.2 million, and without brokers' fees, but — and this would become extremely important — never made an offer in writing. Prucka ultimately refused and sold the house to Nath, who furnished $8.3 million in cash. So Petrello, a man of incredible academic and professional achievement who some say gets his way no matter the financial sacrifice, dialed up his lawyer, David Berg.

Shortly after, the lawsuits began — and they haven't stopped. Seeking the house, Petrello sued Prucka and the involved real estate agent, Peggy McGee, alleging breach of contract and, later, conspiracy and discrimination against his daughter. Nath, himself no stranger to lengthy litigation, sued Petrello when the oilman placed a lien on the manor to stop the transaction, accusing Petrello of bigotry, an unsubstantiated claim later dropped. Petrello sued him back, and a bizarre and confounding story began to unfold, its arc enveloping the City of Houston and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court itself.
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22 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

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

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!!!!

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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