It’s the most exclusive club for financiers in Dallas.
With seven Jeffersonian-style buildings and manicured lawns, Old Parkland looks more like a college campus than a hive of private-equity firms, hedge funds, foundations and family offices. But the 9.5-acre site, where an abandoned hospital once stood, is now home to some of the city’s wealthiest investors.
Old Parkland is the pet project of Harlan Crow, 66, a son of swashbuckling real estate developer Trammell Crow, whose empire was in tatters when he gave up control in the late 1980s. It’s also a symbol of a decades-long effort to rebuild the family’s legacy. Step inside any of the buildings and you might think you’re in a museum, with Rodin sculptures in the hallways, a 17th century antique sofa in a lobby and a piece of curtain Abraham Lincoln is said to have grabbed after being shot on display.
“When I got involved in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was not really clear that our company was going to survive,” Crow said, sitting in a wood-paneled room in his Old Parkland office, just past a Rembrandt Peale portrait of George Washington, a stain on the lapel of his rumpled suit jacket and a piece of white printer paper stuffed haphazardly in a pocket.
After nine years of renovation and expansion, the complex is now home to TRT Holdings Inc., owner of Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym; Highside Capital Management, the hedge fund turned family office led by Lee Hobson; an outpost of Boston-based real estate private-equity firm Rockpoint Group; and the investment company of Roger Enrico, a former chief executive officer of PepsiCo Inc. Residency is by invitation only.
At the center of this financial hub is Crow Holdings, an $8.6 billion investment firm built on the remains of Trammell Crow’s real estate empire that included the Dallas Market Center, San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center, the Wyndham Hotel chain and thousands of homes. The Wall Street Journal in 1986 called Crow the largest landlord in the U.S.
Harlan Crow has spent the last quarter-century making his family wealth about more than just the buildings bought and constructed by his father. A prominent Republican contributor and friend of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Crow hosted a fundraiser at his $39 million home last month for Marco Rubio. He has amassed a collection of historical documents that includes Sir Walter Raleigh’s last plea to King James, written a month before his execution in 1618, a memo from Lincoln condemning slavery written before he decided to run for president and a signed copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”
He also has a collection of statues in his backyard that he jokingly calls his “Garden of Evil.” There’s Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro. Crow said he likes hunting for the best statues from dying regimes, though there’s also one of Margaret Thatcher on display.
“My father was wildly optimistic, and most of what he thought would happen did,” Crow said. “I have a little bit of a mentality that the world is dangerous, and the only thing you can really do is be morally, mentally and physically strong. The rest of the stuff, well you just do the best you can.”