In a characteristically flamboyant 11th-hour play, Peter G. Angelos picked up the phone and called Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke last March to say he was charging ahead with plans to build a $100 million-plus hotel.
It didn't much matter to Angelos that just 10 days before, Schmoke had blessed a different hotel proposal by bakery magnate John Paterakis Sr. -- another multimillionaire titan, the unofficial patriarch of Baltimore's Greek community and a longtime casual friend.
Angelos concluded, after being lobbied quietly by business and civic leaders, that the Paterakis plan was all wrong for the city -- particularly for its convention center, which needs more hotel rooms to attract business.
"It was nothing personal," Angelos said of his proposal, which competes directly with that of Paterakis. "This issue transcends friendships."
The two men now find themselves vying to build on opposite sides of the city's downtown skyline -- Paterakis on waterfront land he owns south of Little Italy, Angelos on city-owned lots next to the Baltimore Convention Center and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
A decision tomorrow by city economic development officials could decide which of the two, in the end, gets his way.
Few Maryland businessmen have more money, power or influence than Angelos and Paterakis. They have known each other nearly a lifetime -- their backgrounds are strikingly similar -- but their professional paths have rarely crossed before now.
"He's the baker, and I'm the lawyer," Angelos said.
Both men come from humble origins in East Baltimore -- Angelos, the son of a tavern owner; Paterakis, the son of a baker -- and were born within three months of each other. (Angelos, the younger of the two, turns 68 on Friday).
Both are the sons of immigrants and can speak Greek fluently. Both are self-made businessmen -- Angelos, a trial lawyer who made millions after his firm won a landmark case against asbestos manufacturers, and Paterakis, who turned an unassuming rowhouse bakery into an international baking empire.
Both have a long history of philanthropy and civic responsibility. Both are influential political players in Baltimore, across Maryland and beyond.
And both are known for being hard-driving, straightforward and hands-on.
"Both of them are very strong-willed individuals," Schmoke said.
Yet, as much as their backgrounds are alike, their styles are very different.
"Angelos is as tough as nails, as bright as anyone I've ever met," said former Gov. William Donald Schaefer. "He'll take on anyone, and if he thinks he's right, he'll go to the mat."
"He lets you know where you stand, doesn't sugarcoat it at all," Schaefer added. "And he can get away with it, because he's worth a billion dollars, and you don't have to kowtow to anyone when you have that kind of money."
By contrast, Schaefer said of Paterakis: "John will never be in the front row. He'll always be standing in back -- though he's beginning to wear ties now -- but everyone feels his presence when he walks in a room."
A lawyer who has wrangled with both men finds the differences marked, saying, "One's an alpha, and one's an omega.
"John is very deferential to Peter and appears to be wanting to be the peacemaker," the lawyer said. "Peter is the opposite: He wants what he wants when he wants it, and he doesn't want to hear any lip otherwise."
The two men rarely mix socially, unless at a church or political function.
Angelos, a former politician, is very much at home in the public eye, though he has never been one to socialize.
Paterakis is a man who shys away from the spotlight but enjoys a good party and playing cards with his cronies. He often hires Greek bands to perform for friends on Sunday nights at the Baltimore Travel Plaza, which he owns. He rarely speaks to reporters, though he was sports editor of the Patterson Press newspaper at Patterson Park High School, which he and Angelos attended together. He even planned to major in journalism in college, though he abandoned that dream to work in the family bakery.
While Paterakis is viewed by many as being more even-tempered than the often volatile Angelos, those who know both men say their tempers are much the same, when provoked.
"I've seen John mad, and I've seen Pete mad, and I'll tell you, I don't want either one of them mad at me," said Anthony J. Ambridge, a former city councilman and now Baltimore's real estate officer. "They're both very intense guys."
Neither of them is ostentatious. "They both live beneath their means," says a mutual friend.
Paterakis drives a Lincoln and lives in a Timonium rancher he's owned for 27 years. Angelos prefers a Cadillac and resides in a stone Colonial-style home in Roland Park.
Paterakis runs his operation from the H&S; Bakery compound in Fells Point in a modest second-floor office, filled with memorabilia, that overlooks Fleet Street at Bond Street. His private office is above the bakery itself, and the smell of baking bread wafts through the building.
Angelos occupies a suite of offices on the 22nd floor of One Charles Center -- a building he bought last year for $6 million and moved into last month. His office overlooks the heart of the city's central business district.
Angelos maintains that he doesn't really want to be in the hotel business. But, then, he has said he never wanted to buy the Baltimore Orioles, much less try to resuscitate the ailing Bethlehem Steel shipyard. Both projects fell to him in his self-appointed role as Citizen Savior of Baltimore.
His sudden action on the hotel deal surprised many business and community leaders not only because of its after-the-fact timing but because it pitted him against Paterakis.
Asked if the matter of the hotels was a showdown between two high-powered rivals, Angelos answered abruptly: "Ridiculous."
Paterakis echoed that, saying, "That's far from the truth. It's not because Peter wants to outshine us."
By all accounts, the question of the hotel siting is the first time the two have been openly on opposite sides. Even on this issue, their dealings with each other have been far from hostile.
Last month, for instance, Angelos stopped at Paterakis' office in Fells Point to discuss their competing proposals over a drink.
In separate interviews last week, the two confirmed that each had offered the other a half ownership stake in their respective hotels. During the Fells Point meeting, one of several conversations, they tried to consolidate their efforts behind one project and avoid flooding downtown Baltimore with new rooms.
No agreement on the hotels was reached. But Angelos did agree to Paterakis' proposal to underwrite a fund-raiser at Martin's West to benefit the Cathedral of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.
The two men split the cost of lobster, filet mignon and an open bar for a crowd of 700 -- a bill that ran to tens of thousands of dollars -- allowing the church to receive the full $275,000 raised that night.
Angelos and Paterakis also have teamed to bring the Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, to Baltimore when he visits the United States this fall.
There have been times when business has brought them together as well.
For instance, when Angelos was pulling together a partnership to buy the Orioles in 1993, he offered Paterakis a stake. The bakery czar eventually declined the opportunity because "I didn't want to be in a partnership with 29 partners," he said.
And two years ago, before the Baltimore Ravens deal came to light, Paterakis joined Angelos and a handful of other businessmen in an investment group looking to bring one of several National Football League teams to the city.
Most recently, Angelos extended to Paterakis an offer to be a partner in his $26 million bid to acquire the Bethlehem Steel shipyard, a Baltimore landmark that currently employs 900. Angelos expects the deal to close shortly.
"I told him I'd be happy to take a look at it once the deal is finished," Paterakis said.
Schmoke has nothing but praise for both.
"From my standpoint as mayor, I've got two outstanding citizens constantly looking at ways they can invest in Baltimore," he said. "I believe their involvement is very positive. There's no down side."
Tales of their generosity abound. The two have plowed untold millions into churches, schools and charities.
Acts of kindness
Their random acts of kindness are legend.
When Paterakis heard that a young couple were using honeymoon savings to throw a party for their parents, he picked up the tab instead.
Angelos, hearing that a priest was retiring from the Greek Orthodox church in Cub Hill, showed up at the goodbye party and presented him with keys to a new Buick.
"Neither one cares about money, but they do care about what money can do," said Ambridge. "They certainly know how to make it -- and certainly know how to give it away."
The generosity extends to politics.
Both men have dumped tens of thousands of dollars into campaigns on the national, state and local levels.
Earlier this year, The Sun found that Angelos and companies controlled by Paterakis apparently violated Maryland's campaign finance law by contributing more than the permitted $10,000 to various candidates in the last election cycle.
"It just so happens that both have huge capital investments in downtown Baltimore and are very concerned about how the city has developed," said state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. "That's one of the reasons they're both involved in politics."
City Hall's call
While Miller and others will be involved on the periphery, the decision on who gets to build the hotel will fall to City Hall.
Angelos' proposal calls for a $150 million, 850-room hotel -- a Grand Hyatt that would be connected by skywalk to the convention center.
Combined, Angelos and Hyatt Hotels Corp. would invest $25 million in the project.
Paterakis' $112 million proposal, by contrast, would offer 750 rooms at Inner Harbor East, a mile away from the convention center.
Paterakis and Wyndham Hotels Corp. would together invest roughly $3 million.
"We've committed ourselves to go all the way through," Paterakis said. "I'm sure Peter's serious but we're going ahead."
Angelos, for his part, said he had to push his competing proposal for the city's sake.
"I'm doing it because I see a serious mistake being made, and it could have severe consequences for the convention center," he said.
The city's economic development arm will make a decision tomorrow that could determine which proposal will get the necessary public financing.
The Baltimore Development Corp. is scheduled to vote on whether Paterakis' team met eight requirements -- such as parking and financing -- imposed in March.
At the same time, the BDC's nine-member board will assess the Angelos proposal, chairman Roger C. Lipitz said Friday.
"We won't pretend [the Angelos proposal] doesn't exist," Lipitz said.
"But we know we can't do both."
Pub Date: 6/29/97