David Wright House: Rich People Problems

There’s something irresistibly entertaining about listening to rich people complain.

In successive headlines in the morning email from the Phoenix Business Journal today, Angela Gonzales (@PhxBizAGonzales) writes, “Apollo Group CFO resigns; interim replacement to make $80,000 a month,” and Mike Sunnucks (@PhxBizMike) pens, “Owners of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house lobby Arcadia neighbors.”

Connecting the dots is an Arizona Republic editorial written a while back by billionaire Peter Sperling, chairman of the Apollo Education Group/University of Phoenix, and son of UoP founder John Sperling. The Sperlings made their money by saddling students with many billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed debt, and Apollo/UoP is one of many for-profit schools currently being scrutinized by the feds for delivering diplomas of questionable value to their job-seeking students.

As evidenced by Gonzales’ article (link above), Apollo appears to have been in financial trouble even before the inquiries began. And I’m sure federal scrutiny won’t help that situation.

David Wright House in Arcadia, Wikipedia

Peter Sperling is a neighbor of the David Wright house property in Arcadia. In his Arizona Republic missive, Sperling the Younger cries mightily that the current owner of the David Wright house is turning it into, “a massive commercial complex,” and worries what it will “…do to parking in Arcadia? Or noise at night? Or traffic?”

Joining the chorus of complaints is another neighbor, Christie Wolfswinkel. Yes, the niece [according to a relative, corrected 4/29/2015; see comment below] of the unfortunately-nicknamed “Con” (Conley) Wolfswinkel, former associate of savings and loan scandal perpetrator Charles Keating, convicted felon, real estate investor/developer, and millionaire many times over. Last year Con was involved in a complicated real estate flip which saw him purchase a piece of land in the far West Valley owned by the City of Scottsdale and sell the taxpayers a different parcel.

Why, you may ask, do Scottsdale taxpayers own land in the West Valley? So we can supply taxpayer-subsidized irrigation water to golf courses, including one owned by GoDaddy billionaire Bob Parsons! In theory, piping the water from Con’s parcel is cheaper than from the City parcel, thus the swap. I’m sure Con put more than a little money in his pocket with this deal, and kudos to him for figuring it out, purchasing the adjoining property, and facilitating the swap.

However, back in Arcadia, Sperling the Younger and Wolfswinkel the Niece couldn’t give a nickel’s pickle about development impact on any other neighborhood but their own; certainly not your neighborhood or mine. And both of them could have probably written a check out of petty cash to purchase the David Wright property themselves, if they wanted to control how it was used.

For more background on the David Wright house controversy, see this editorial in the Scottsdale Independent by Charles Coughlin. And my previous articles on the subject on ScottsdaleTrails.

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  1. You could at least get your facts straight. Christie is NOT the daughter of Conley Wolfrswinkel. Her father is Calvin and he had a “falilng out” with Conley back in the ’70’s. What you wrote is slander as it pertains to Christie. You are sensationalist writer and very poor on facts. Calvin bought property in the Arcadia are back in the ’60s because it was not a commerial area. What the developer who bought the Wright House did everything under the table. If you are an ethical person you will send write Christie an apology letter for what you wrote.

    1. Kelley, thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a timely correction. It was an amateur mistake. I apologize to you and to Christie for the confusion. I have corrected the text of the article, and in approving and publishing your comment I hope I have sufficiently clarified the familial relationship.

      The circumstances of Calvin’s purchase of the Arcadia property and subsequent development in the area are not unfamiliar to me. These issues are contested whenever communities grow, and we’ve been dealing with them in Scottsdale for all of the fifteen years or so that I’ve been involved.

      As far as your statement about the new owner of the Wright property doing “everything under the table,” I think that’s a lot closer to “slander” than a mistake about a familial relationship. The dealings of developers and zoning authorities always proceed well down the path before an inattentive public is afforded an opportunity to weigh in.

      It’s frustrating for me too, but I note with not a small degree of irony that Sperling’s attorney Jordan Rose–along with her husband, PR huckster Jason–have had a hand in some of the most egregious zoning-busting cases in Scottsdale…including the belly-up Blue Sky project I reported on Monday.

  2. Wolfswinkel is a convicted felon. His partner Bill Levine, to whom Conley donated $100,000 at the Bill Levine Gala is also a crook, who committed antitrust violations. NOT a rumor….a FACT.

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