Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Mendenhall Chronicles: Part I

In the early 1980s, Burke Mendenhall was a real estate developer who owned several commercial buildings in Indianapolis. One of those was an out building behind the Lafayette Square Mall with the address 4266 W. 38th Street. Burke Mendenhall bought the building from Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation, which had owned the mall prior to the company merging with Simon Property Group in 1996.

Best known in the early 1980s for owning the San Francisco 49ers, Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr. later became involved in the corruption trial of former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards. In exchange for his testimony about Edwards' demanding DeBartolo pay $400,000 for a riverboat casino license, DeBartolo pled guilty to failing to report a felony and received a $1 million fine and two years probation.

But in the early 1980s, DeBartolo’s legal problems were well in the future. Burke Mendenhall’s legal problems though were on the horizon.

Burke Mendenhall struggled to find good tenants for the building. In early 1983, Mendenhall was approached by a man named Burton Gorelick who was doing business as Plaza Entertainment Center. Gorelick, who was in the pornography business, found Mendenhall’s building, which was not near any residential area, school or church, to be ideal. Gorelick asked Mendenhall if he had problems with an adult bookstore being established in the building. Mendenhall said he did not. He was just happy to have a paying tenant. On June 1, 1983, the parties signed a five-year, renewable lease.

DeBartolo was not happy with the plans to open an adult bookstore. In the deed conveying the property from DeBartolo to Mendenhall was a restrictive covenant requiring changes in the building to be approved by DeBartolo. DeBartolo never attempted to exercise the provision as multiple tenants came and went from the building. Now with Burke Mendenhall’s tenant planning to open an adult bookstore, DeBartolo asked his attorney, Edward Delaney, a partner with Barnes and Thornburg, to take action.

The lawsuit Delaney filed would, more than a quarter of a century later, result in a bizarre confrontation between Burke’s then 12 year old son and Delaney in a parked car in a Carmel church parking lot.

To read the Mendenhall Chronicles Prologue click here:


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