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Controversy

The Rise and Fall of Virgin Hotel Developer Bill Hutchinson

The story is familiar: a wealthy man who uses his power and prestige to cover up sexual crimes. But some supports say Hutchinson has been unfairly targeted.
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Bill Hutchinson portrait
Bill Hutchinson, photographed here in 2015. Billy Surface

In July, when news broke that real estate developer Bill Hutchinson had been charged with the sexual assault of a minor, the story was at once shocking and mundane. In recent years, we have become used to the routine outing of a certain kind of powerful man who uses his power, money, social prestige, and influence to cover up sexual crimes. Hutchinson, who denies the charges against him, had built an ostentatious reputation in recent years as a playboy tycoon. His purchasing of large swaths of the Design District and the development of the Virgin Hotel Dallas were as much a project of self-invention as they were a professional milestone. Hutchinson was the swaggering, rock-drumming real estate impresario with a staring role on a reality TV show that made a spectacle of the 40-plus-year gap between 63-year-old Hutchinson and his 23-year-old fiancée.

But as I looked into Hutchinson’s story, I began to learn about another image of him. The debonair developer was the son of Christian missionaries. He had grown up in Mexico, made his way to Dallas via SMU, and built and lost a real estate fortune before starting over in the wake of the savings and loan crisis. He was twice divorced but remained close with his children and ex-wives, who describe him as a devoted family man. Friends called the playboy schtick a façade and said that at his core, Hutchinson is the kind of friend who shows up in the middle of the night if you need him and has helped plenty of Dallasites build their own careers and fortunes. They were baffled by the accusations, all of which Hutchinson plans to fight in court.

This split image of Bill Hutchinson is the subject of my feature in the November issue of D Magazine, which is online today. It is an attempt to reconcile two conflicting images of a man whom several women, at great personal risk, have come forward to accuse of acts of sexual violence, a man whose closest friends believe is being unfairly targeted for his wealth. During the reporting, I was approached by a woman not involved in the initial charges against Hutchinson who made her own harrowing claims of having been sexually assaulted by Hutchinson. Since the article went to press, she has filed the third civil suit against him.

Since the lawsuits were filed, Hutchinson has sold his homes in Laguna Beach and Miami, and he has stepped away from his role with the Virgin Hotel Dallas and Dunhill Partners, the real estate company he founded in 1982. There may still be more to come. In a letter sent after the article went to press, Hutchinson’s lawyer says that he has a video statement from a young woman who was traveling with Hutchinson in Laguna Beach who claims the sexual assault allegations there were fabricated. At the same time, a lawyer working with two of the women who have accused Hutchinson of sexual crimes says there have been more women who have reached out to her with their own stories of sexual assault. Some may file additional lawsuits.

Read the full story here.

Author

Peter Simek

Peter Simek

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Peter Simek was the arts editor with D Magazine where he wrote about a broad range of topics, from visual…

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