One of the key Rim Country business leaders and backer of the ASU campus plan died Thursday when his vintage P-51 Mustang fighter crashed into a hangar in Chandler.
Naziruden (Nazy) Hirani died instantly in a mushroom cloud of smoke and flame when the wing of his World War II era fighter plane clipped the edge of a building.
Hirani, who owned the Bashas’ shopping center plaza, had in recent years become one of the leading investors and business leaders in Payson.
A regular participant in the Payson Aerofair with his vintage planes, Hirani was also one of the key donors trying to bring an ASU campus to Payson, said Mayor Kenny Evans.
“His presence will be sorely missed and for those of us who were just getting to know him, it is an irreplaceable loss,” said Ken Volz, executive director, Executive Director of the Northern Gila County Economic Development Corporation
“Nazy was one of those rare businessmen who had a vision and both the resources and the tenacity to stick with it,” said Evans. “He was not only perhaps the major investor in commercial property in the town of Payson, but a major, major player in bringing ASU to town.”
Hirani had recently invested more than a million dollars in upgrading the Payson Village Center, despite the recession and the uncertainty spawned by Bashas’ recent bankruptcy and reorganization.
“He’s become a major proponent of Payson. He owned the shopping center, but he was willing to give good references to people who would ultimately be competitors.”
Hirani’s willingness to make a big investment in the shopping center and his personal involvement with recruitment efforts proved invaluable in the town’s efforts to recruit new businesses to the region despite the recession, Evans said.
“He was a direct, forthright, very, very pleasant person — very decisive. He just had a natural talent and love for business.”
Owner of Hirani Oil LLC in Phoenix, Hirani also developed commercial properties and apartment buildings in Arizona and California.
Witnesses at the Chandler Airport said Hirani was making what looked like a landing approach at high speed, when he clipped the hanger with a wing tip. The plane crashed in a ball of fire, strewing pieces of wreckage across the runway. The precise cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Hirani had a number of vintage airplanes and regularly flew in the Payson Aerofair.
He had a P51D Mustang, which was the workhorse American fighter plane in World War II.
Evans said Rim Country has lost a vital leader with a deep commitment to the community. He said he had no idea how Hirani’s death would affect the funding for the ASU Campus, but noted that Hirani had assembled a key group of investors who provided a large portion of the $70 million in contributions.
“He was a risk taker — you can’t be a good businessman without being a good risk taker. But being a gambler and being a risk taker is not one and the same,” said Evans. “Nazy was not a gambler, he was someone who could assess the pluses and minuses — call that risk taking if you want.”