Cover Story: A Clash of Millionaires Among the Mansions of Shadyside

Categories: Cover Story

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I've been called a number of things throughout the course of reporting a story -- "pontificating punk" may be my personal favorite -- but something I've rarely been called is naive.

Until, that is, I started working on this week's cover story, The Battle Of Remington Lane. I didn't know how dangerous these men are, I was told time and again by sources. I didn't understand. I didn't get it. I should give up. I was naive.

Indeed, there were things involving this strange clash between millionaire oilman Tony Petrello, his former neighbor, Matt Prucka, and his new neighbor, an embattled doctor named Rahul Nath, that I didn't understand. And still don't. I don't understand how something as ordinary as the sale of a house could transform into an extremely serious lawsuit festooned with weighty allegations, injecting a measure of intrigue into an otherwise placid community.

I don't understand how, in a city populated with millions of people and scores of housing disputes every year, the city chose to involve itself in this dispute between millionaires. Or how an ordinance -- ostensibly passed to protect the poor from housing discrimination -- had been brought to bear in civil litigation between very wealthy men.

And I don't understand how someone as undeniably intelligent and accomplished as Tony Petrello could sink millions of dollars, and years of his life, into a lawsuit that began, quite simply, because he didn't get his way. Was it worth it?

I don't know that either. He never talked to me. Perhaps it was. Perhaps not.

We'll let you decide.

In a time when the nation's attention has focused on class tensions -- for evidence read the New York Times Opinions' page, oh, every day, or listen to the rhetoric spewing from Mitt Romney and Barack Obama -- let's also be clear that this story isn't representative of anything beyond the confines of the narrative.

The poor aren't all lazy. And the wealthy aren't all callous and greedy. Far from it. Indeed, Tony Petrello has been, by every measure, an incredibly generous philanthropist while Rahul Nath -- though there are some very serious Texas Medical Board allegations against him -- has helped countless sick children. These are multidimensional people: just like all of us.

But in this story, at least, it was their millions that spoke loudest.


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