In Business Las Vegas
Friday, April 3, 2009 | 11:50 a.m.
When I read my colleague Steve Green’s story that Rhodes Design and Development had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, I was reminded how a recession can be measured.
In Rhodes’ case, it can be measured by the absence of private holiday parties at Rain at the Palms where the Goo Goo Dolls are the featured performers.
Yes, in December 2006 Jim and Glynda Rhodes actually rented Rain and hired the Goo Goo Dolls to perform for a holiday party for their close friends and family. Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth must have already been booked, I guess. Regardless, that is how the seemingly unconstrained couple have rolled over the years, especially in the coo-coo, wow-wow, pre-recession days of the mid-2000s. But something about “Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection” and “I’m bidding $20,000 on this guitar signed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney” does not jibe. Glynda Rhodes pulled down such an artifact almost two years ago to the day at the L.V. Philharmonic’s “Elegance and Style” at The Venetian. The guitar was appraised at $30,000, but she got it for the bargain-basement price of $20,000. When she posted the winning bid, she yelped like a circa-1964 Beatlemaniac.
Over the years, few have displayed the philanthropic extravagance with quite the flair as Jim and Glynda Rhodes. Rhodes has developed Rhodes Ranch and Tuscany and has built more than 7,000 homes in the Las Vegas Valley, maybe even yours. Rhodes Design and Development is a major home builder in Arizona, too, an umbrella corporation for more than 30 related companies. It’s often seemed that the Rhodes have been as interested in building their reputation as one of the city’s foremost charitable couples as constructing subdivisions. Three years ago, In Business Las Vegas, our sister publication, named them the city’s most influential couple, in large part because of their charitable forays. Glynda Rhodes in particular has served as the point person in many philanthropic projects, having chaired the Rhodes Homes Charitable Giving Committee and been a member of the board of directors for Opportunity Village.
To run into the Rhodes at an event has been to have your situation rattled, to be sure. I recall well the night I met Jim Rhodes, when he accidentally offered me $12,000. Well, he meant to offer the money, but not exactly to me. That was in December 2005, during a reception at Ermenegildo Zegna at the Forum Shops at Caesars to raise money for the La Concha hotel restoration project. The fundraiser was to finance the moving of the hotel’s lobby to the Neon Boneyard, where it would be renovated as the entry to the old-Vegas museum of decommissioned neon signs.
I was introduced to Rhodes by one of the organizers, and we started talking about golf. One of his more famous projects is Rhodes Ranch Country Club, where a few days earlier, I had lost a half-dozen Top Flights and flung a wedge about 80 yards. Great course. I was impressed that Rhodes said he never played golf because he never has time, and was reminded of how University Chancellor Jim Rogers collects all those mint-condition classic cars but never drives them because he’s so busy.
I mentioned to Rhodes that the save-the-La Concha group, for whom we were all gathered amid multicolored neckwear and $1,000 shoes fashioned of pressed leather, was about $12,000 short of its goal for the event. “I’ve got it. I’ll give it to you now,” Rhodes said, performing a self-frisk to locate either a checkbook or a wad of 12 $1,000 bills.
“Hang on, cowboy,” I said, except I didn’t really say cowboy aloud. “Hang on,” though, was made clear. I felt Jim Rhodes was honestly prepared to hand a quasi-stranger 12 grand to fix an old hotel lobby.
I would learn, over time, that flipping $12,000 donations in the same manner a kid would play the ring toss at the county fair was common for Jim and Glynda Rhodes. These two hit the scene with both guns (and at least one credit card) blazing. He could be relied on to be dressed nattily in some high-fashion attire, maybe even an Ermenegildo Zegna design. Glynda, her neck, earlobes and hands heavy with flashy baubles, has become famous for her extroverted disposition, and also for wearing a pink fur coat to events. It’s an accessory that would make any PETA member retch, but she loves it, embracing Ulla’s line from “The Producers,” “If ya got it, flaunt it.”
Today I’m not certain if Glynda Rhodes still owns that item, or if it’s hanging on a rack at Goodwill. What is certain is that we probably won’t see Jim and Glynda Rhodes making snap donations of $2 million to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Institute for Brain Health. Jim made that donation at the 2007 “Power of Love” gala, a night when at least $17 million was raised for the groundbreaking medical facility. Two million bucks, like that. Snap!
Rhodes has said the filing will have little impact on his company’s day-to-day operations, but I’m wondering what will happen night-to-night, how the couple famous for doling out the bucks will play it closer to the vest. Or, in this case, the pink fur jacket.