October 2016 - Flying Changes
Written by CRM
Saturday, 01 October 2016 05:58

Farewell & Thank You Parry Thomas

E Parry Thomas passed away August 26 at the age of 95.

A banker who helped finance development of the casino industry of Las Vegas, and deeply involved in dressage as the owner of Brentina, ridden by Debbie McDonald to Olympic, world and continental championship medals as well as the World Cup.

Parry, along with his business partner, Jerome D. Mack, is credited with building Las Vegas including some of the city’s biggest hotel-casinos.

One of their major contributions was to donate the land for construction of the Thomas & Mack Arena that hosted the first dual World Cup Finals of dressage and jumping in 2005 and again in 2007, 2009 and 2015.

Debbie McDonald and her hunter-jumper trainer husband, Bob, had a close relationship with the family. The Thomases bought Brentina, a Hanoverian born in 1991, as a mount for Peggy Thomas, Parry’s wife, but after being thrown the family decided to keep he horse but turn it over for Debbie to compete.

The partnership won team and individual gold at the 1999 Pan American Games, team silver at the 2002 World Games, team bronze at the 2004 Olympics, team bronze at the 2006 World Games, competed on the U.S. team at the 2008 Olympics. The pair won the World Cup in 2003, the first American combination to do so.

Parry died at his Hailey, Idaho River Grove Farm and had been following the U.S. Developing Horse Championships where Adrienne Lyle, who rode the Thomas family’s Wizard in the 2012 Olympics and 2014 World Games, was competing.

If not for visionary banker E. Parry Thomas, Las Vegas would have been a much less successful place than the thriving, sprawling, glittering desert oasis it is today...and dressage in the USA might be different also.

Iconic resorts like the Sahara and Dunes likely would have had no one to finance them at the time they were built or enlarged. Thomas financed such gaming visionaries as Steve Wynn, launching him on a gaming career that included construction of the Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas.

Thomas, a passionate supporter of UNLV whose name graces the Thomas & Mack Center, bought hotels and other property on behalf of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes and started a foundation that fueled significant expansion of UNLV. Thomas also funded construction of Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, which has treated millions of patients, and the expansive Boulevard mall that provided Las Vegans with one of their first centralized mega-retail facilities.

Thomas’ oldest son, Peter M. Thomas, now co-managing partner (with brother Thomas) of Thomas & Mack Co., a major real estate development firm, said his father’s legacy included his family, his four-decade business partnership with Jerry Mack, his acquiring land that quadrupled the size of UNLV and his initiative to finance casino projects that forever changed Las Vegas’ skyline.

“What my father started with Jerry Mack has developed into a business that thrives and is run by not only my father’s children, but Jerry’s (and his widow Joyce’s) children,” Peter Thomas said. “We are one family, and it all resulted from Jerry and Dad being a great team — Jerry handling the real estate end and my father doing the banking.”

In the 1950s, when Thomas was a 33-year-old executive working for the Continental Bank & Trust Co. of Salt Lake City under banking legend Walter Cosgriff, he was sent to the then tiny, dusty and mostly underdeveloped town of Las Vegas to check it out for investment potential. In those days, bankers were unwilling to invest in Las Vegas casino development because of the obvious risk involved with sinking money into gambling houses and because of

the seedy mobsters who were running the casinos at the time.

But Thomas saw the casino operators as a new breed of aggressive businessmen who, despite their criminal pasts, were trustworthy.

In a 2002 interview with the Sun, Thomas said the operators of that era had an “insatiable appetite for loans.” He called them former illegal gamblers who came to Las Vegas to become legitimate. And to a banker looking to get his loans repaid, Thomas said these “characters” were about as good as borrowers would get.

“They were probably the most honorable people I ever met,” Thomas said. “Their word was their bond.”

Born June 29, 1921, in Ogden, Utah, Thomas was the son of a successful plumbing contractor. Thomas’ first job was as a bank loan collector, and he served as a U.S. intelligence agent in Europe during World War II.

A philanthropist and community civic leader, Thomas helped establish the United Way of Southern Nevada to serve as an overseer of the distribution of funds to local charities.

Thomas told much of his life story in the 2009 book Quiet Kingmaker of Las Vegas: E. Parry Thomas by Jack Sheehan.

Thomas is survived by his wife, Peggy C. Thomas, of Las Vegas and Hailey; four sons, Peter M. Thomas, Roger P. Thomas, Dr. Steven C. Thomas and Thomas A. Thomas, all of Las Vegas; a sister, Jane Sturdivant, of Hailey; 13 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Report provided courtesy of IJump Sports.

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