Jerry Colangelo prides himself on being a storyteller.
“I have lots of stories,” says Colangelo, a partner in JDM Partners, a Phoenix-based real estate development company. “I should have lots of stories. I was around when nothing existed.”
Most of Colangelo’s stories stem from his time as one of the most influential sports executives in the world. He molded the Phoenix Suns into one of the most successful organizations in the NBA, helped bring Major League Baseball to the Valley in 1998 and served as managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and was instrumental in bringing the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes to the Valley.
But these days, Colangelo’s commitment to the Valley has transcended sports and he is shaping the community through commercial real estate. AZRE sat down with Colangelo to talk sports and real estate.
AZRE: What is more difficult: Professional sports or commercial real estate?
Jerry Colangelo: To me, it’s all a game. In professional sports, it’s about the ball. Sports is a big part of American culture and a part of everyone’s life. Real estate is another game. It’s competitive. It’s all about product — putting a good team on a floor or putting a beautiful building into a complex. Sports and commercial real estate are much the same, but with different terminology. I like the feel of commercial real estate. I’ve always been a guy who enjoys the action and I’m not one to sit back. In December, we concluded the largest commercial real estate transaction in the history of Arizona when we purchased the State Farm $2 billion project on Tempe Town Lake. I like those things. I like being first. I like winning.
AZRE: How was the transition from sports to real estate?
JC: I’m still very involved with sports. I’m chairman of USA basketball and will be through the 2020 Olympics and I’m chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. So while I’m still very involved in sports, a lot of those same people are involved in real estate. Those relationships have led to me enjoying coming to work every day because there is something new to speak about with every phone call.
AZRE: What has been the biggest change you seen since you came to Arizona?
JC: When I arrived in 1968, I thought Phoenix was a sleepy town, a frontier town compared with Chicago, where I came from. There were 700,000 people when I arrived and today there are more than 5 million. We’ve become more sophisticated. Phoenix is a big city. I had hopes and expectations of being part of reviving and developing downtown Phoenix, because that’s the heart of the city and I’m an urban person by nature. To actually see that become a reality is very exciting. If anyone had predicted back in the 1970s that Phoenix would become an urban center, I would have said, “Not in our lifetime.” But here we are. It’s becoming an urban center and the future in America is urbanization. To see Phoenix as a leader in urbanization says a lot about what we are, what we’ve become and what the future holds.