Detroit — If ever the world’s largest Masonic Temple needed a crusading knight to fend off bill collectors and lawyers, that time is now.
From the east comes a third-generation Mason, originally from Farmington Hills. When New York City attorney Bradley Dizik read in April the historic Cass Corridor institution was in tax foreclosure, he took it as a call to arms. Dizik is helping slay the temple’s debt and vanquish a lawsuit. He’s playing a major role in the quest to return the temple as a significant entertainment venue, and trumpet the Masonic brilliance of the 1,037-room facility.
“I am a protector of the temple,” said Dizik, who just turned 30. “My job is to screen people. No more bad actors will be allowed to enter.” Since May, he has held the title of special adviser to the Masonic Temple’s board of trustees.
Dizik isn’t the only who has come to the temple’s aid since The Detroit News revealed six months ago the facility owed Wayne County $142,000 in back taxes. It faced being sold at the annual auction of foreclosed properties. Bidding for the 14-story Gothic structure, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, would have started at $160,000. Out of the blue, Detroit-born rocker Jack White stepped forward and paid the tax bill.
“We’ve got much support, not just from him but many people who understand that the Masonic Temple is a priceless asset,” said Roger Sobran, president of the Masonic Temple Association. “We certainly appreciate Brad’s enthusiasm and skill. He’s playing a big part.”
Dizik specializes in tackling large, complex financial battles. The North Farmington High graduate went to Georgetown University Law, where he obtained a master’s of law degree in securities and financial regulation. He worked for the Washington law firm that handled General Motors’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He once did a stint in Kyrgyzstan to defend a client. Earlier this year, he started his own consulting firm, Tiberian Regulatory Advisers .
“I’m an anti-corruption lawyer. I just hate seeing good people getting taken advantage of; I always want to correct that,” he said. He now spends about half his time in Detroit and at the Masonic Temple. “I am helping them restructure.”
Building a reputation
His influence is already being felt. Three weeks ago, The Crofoot Presents, based in Pontiac, was selected to be the venue’s lead promoter, and vowed to dramatically increase the number of shows. A few years ago, the Masonic had just four shows in 12 months.
“We want to be cutting-edge in the acts we get there, and innovative in how we use the incredible venue,” said Dan McGowan of The Crofoot Presents. Dizik helped seal the deal, which formalizes an arrangement that’s been going for almost a year. The plan is to use Masonic’s vast array of rooms and spaces for pre- and post-show events. Its main theater is 4,400 seats, about the same size as the Fox Theatre downtown. The Masonic also can book acts catering to just a few hundred.
Like many Metro Detroiters, Dizik has fond memories of seeing theater performances at the Masonic. He’s looking to bring theater and opera back.
Local music promoters hailed the announcement.
“The Crofoot are taste-makers. They have good instincts. They are very collaborative,” said Greg Baise, who once booked acts for Crofoot and now is curator of public programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
Longtime promoter Amir Daiza agreed. “If they do it right, the Masonic will have no competition,” Daiza said. He owns Pontiac’s Elektricity nightclub. “The Crofoot will know how to play up that historic space.”
Dizik also helped broker a deal with DTE Energy. The utility threatened to shut off the power because of a $300,000 overdue bill. Last month, a payment plan was arranged, which should avert further drama. Neither side said how much is still owed.
Suits, countersuits a threat
Dizik is a consultant to the lawsuit, and countersuits, that are the Temple’s biggest remaining threat. It’s a nasty battle with the Temple’s former management company, Halberd Holdings. Claims of mismanagement, breach of contract and hiding massive unpaid bills are hurled by each side.
Halberd also claims an ownership stake in the Masonic. The Masons’ attorney, Jason Abel, says the claims are “wholly baseless.” Dizik says his advice has been to play hardball against the accusations.
The legal battle isn’t going away soon, says Halberd’s attorney Norman Yatooma. “The Masonic basically got greedy. (Halberd) booked 70 shows and then (the Masons) terminated their contract,” Yatooma said.
Some of the investors that once made up Halberd have split up, including former Detroit Lions star Mel Farr and Donald Foss, founder of Credit Acceptance Corp, according to court documents. The two remaining principals are Michael Smith, a Mount Clemens attorney, and New York filmmaker Matthew Mazer. Neither returned telephone calls and email requests from The News.
The best is yet to come for the Masonic, Dizik says. For decades, the Masonic has been surrounded by the blighted Cass Corridor. That should dramatically change. It’s now smack dab in the planned 45-block entertainment district that is to be anchored by the new home for the Detroit Red Wings. That arena will be built across the street from the Masonic Temple.
“There is so much interest by many, many investors on how to work with Masonic Temple,” Dizik said.
“We are talking everything from a pop-up cigar bar and restaurant. We have interest by sponsors who want naming rights to the theaters. We have ideas for lofts and a boutique hotel. This amazing facility can come alive like it is has always meant to be.”