REAL ESTATE: The Desert Song

Roly-poly M. (for Marion) Penn Phillips, 70. claims he has sold more parcels of land (an estimated 100,000) than any other man alive. What is more remarkable is that most of the land was among the most forsaken and forbidding in the U.S.: the western desert, burned by searing sun and swept by fierce sand storms. Phillips and the 100 land development companies he heads have been prime movers in the great California desert boom. Once a death trap to pioneers, the desert's rock and sand wastes, with their harsh beauty, dry,...

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