Joe O’Donnell and WEEI

July 10th, 2006 → 10:44 am @ // No Comments

This morning, WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan” (with Steve DeOssie sitting in for John Dennis) had Boston Culinary Group head Joe O’Donnell on as a guest. The subject was O’Donnell and Steve Karp’s bid for the Red Sox in 2001.

DeOssie and Callahan were pushing O’Donnell about a section in my book in which I describe a trip O’Donnell and John Henry took to the Boston waterfront in January 2002, after the Red Sox had agreed to sell the team to Henry and Tom Werner but before their ownership had been finalized. At the time, O’Donnell and Henry were discussing joining forces. The section reads as follows:

At around one in the morning, O’Donnell suggested he and Karp drive Henry out to a waterfront location where they wanted to build a new ballpark for the team. Henry was sufficiently concerned about the prospect of an after-midnight trip to Boston’s waterfront that he called [financial advisor] David Ginsberg to tell him where he was headed, and with whom.

“Joe played me recordings of voicemails from the house speaker, the mayor, and another who were reacting to Joe’s losing out on the Red Sox,” Henry wrote in an email he sent to his lawyers and several of his partners that morning at 3:05 am. “He talked a lot about the sports media and the Herald being in his corner or something to that effect.” Henry told how O’Donnell had asked that he be made managing partner “if something happened to you.” “That,” Henry wrote, “was a little scary.”

DeOssie and Callahan pushed O’Donnell to sue (either me or John Henry) for libel or slander. O’Donnell, to his credit, didn’t take the bait. The hosts also kept returning to the fact that there are sections in which I recount conversations O’Donnell participated in but that I had never spoken with him.

A couple of things worth pointing out.

• I did, as O’Donnell readily acknowledged, make many efforts to get in touch with both him and Steve Karp. This is made clear in the book: “Neither O’Donnell nor Karp responded to repeated verbal and written requests for comment for this book, although close associates of both men did speak to me on background.” What’s more, O’Donnell acknowledged that even he couldn’t argue with many of the conversations I did recount: “Basically, that’s all true,” he said this morning.

• DeOssie and Callahan also ridiculed the notion that O’Donnell had the support of the local media (this after saying on air, “O’Donnell’s good, huh?”). But as O’Donnell himself said, “[Former Boston Globe columnist] Willy McDonough, who was a lifelong friend of mine, who was a good friend, was relentless in his support of Steve and me.” O’Donnell also said that he was good friends with Pat Purcell, the publisher of the Herald. That’s almost exactly what I wrote: that O’Donnell and Karp, as local bidders with longstanding ties to the community, had the support of many Boston-area columnists and that some people “in Boston media circles” thought Purcell might be hard on the Henry-Werner bid because he “was upset about the prospect of the investment of The New York Times Company, which owns The Boston Globe.”

• Later in the show, DeOssie and Callahan claimed the book said O’Donnell and Karp did not have enough money to buy the team; that’s not true. What the book does say is that lawyers involved in the sale, associates of O’Donnell and Karp, and Red Sox officials all felt that O’Donnell and Karp were not willing to put up enough of their own money to make a sale to them viable. (As I note, O’Donnell and Karp are reported to have a combined net worth of almost $2 billion.) As O’Donnell himself said on WEEI, “Steve and I, the night before the decision was to be made, Steve and I sat in a room alone around one o’clock in the morning. The real breaker in that deal, which made it tremendously clear to me and to Steve, was when [John] Harrington extended the contract to [Fenway concessionaire] Aramark for 10 more years, the food service contract. I’m not in the garbage business. We had planned that in all our numbers and we had already made those plans.”

• Finally, much is made of the fact that supposedly John Henry told me that O’Donnell and Karp had threatened his life. Nowhere in my book is anything like this printed. I do quote an email, which I take pains to say Henry sent “to his lawyers and several of his partners.” I make absolutely no reference to where I got that email, and there are no quotes from John Henry. What’s more, O’Donnell verifies virtually everything in that section (except for the sentiments expressed in the email). As he said, “When I look back on it, [Henry’s] a guy from out of town, he knows that I know everybody…he looked at me as a guy that’s connected. You know, my mother’s Italian, I never thought I was connected, you know, to the goombahs. He called me and said do you mind if I bring Ginsberg…and I said no, you can’t bring him.”

I have to give Joe O’Donnell some credit. Despite the fact that less than two pages in a 400-plus page book are being distorted in a way to gin up controversy, he tried, for the most part, to avoid adding fuel to the fire. Still, there is one thing I want to clarify about his remarks as they related to me: “First of all, this guy, Mnookin, is that his name? He called a couple of times to ask to speak off the record. I didn’t respond to him, and neither did Karp.” Not true — although I did offer, in emails, in telephone messages, and through intermediaries, to talk with him on-the-record, off-the-record, or on background, whichever he prefered. (O’Donnell also refered to me as “sketchy” and “this kid.” That is so wicked harsh!)

One other comment he did make — “If you want to sell a lot of books, i supposed you can put the other spin on it” — should actually be made in reference to the coverage of the book, not the book itself. Indeed, it’ll be interesting to see how his appearance this morning plays out.

Post Categories: Joe O'Donnell & John Harrington & John Henry & Sports Reporters & WEEI

7 Comments → “Joe O’Donnell and WEEI”

  1. Bring Back Pedro

    17 years ago

    Theo Epstein’s disrespect of Pedro Martinez is unforgivable. He cost the Sox a shot at the title last season, and they would be better this season if they were paying Pedro instead of Clement and Edgar.

    Why does Theo get a free pass for this horrific mistake, a mistake on par with the Bambino and Rocket?

    Why did people applaud when the racist young wonderboy gave big money to Matt Clement, a 30+ yr old career .500 pitcher who had never won 15 games in a season, a risky proposition at best? Why did they believe that Matt Clement was better value than the Hall of Famer who had just thrown 7 shutout innings in the world series?

    Why was Jason Varitek, a player the same age as Pedro who had suffered injury in 2001 just as Pedro did, yet a player who had never played in an All-Star game, a good deal at 4 years but Pedro was not?

    Why do people continue to give Theo a free pass for this disasterous mistake? No team has ever had a $130 million payroll and failed to win a single playoff game for that season, until last year. Theo was at the helm.

    As Bronson Arroyo said: “If Theo didn’t have such a huge ego, and if he brought back Pedro, we would have won the AL East by 6 or 7 games last season and sure as hell would not have been swept by the White Sox.”

    “Where have you gone Pedro Martinez, a nation turns its lonely hearts to you.” – Larry Lucchino

    Theo, you suck.


  2. Bring Back Pedro

    17 years ago

    I hope that Mnookin’s next book will be entitled:

    How Ego and Arrogance Led to Theo Epstein Dismantling a Championship Team.


  3. behindthepen

    17 years ago

    shockingly, the EEI crowd showed a basic misunderstading of the financial issues.
    MLB and Harrington were probably concerned about selling the historic franchise to straight businessmen … the structure that ODonnell/Karp proposed smelled of a “real estate deal”, not of an investment in a baseball legend.
    It wasn’t a question of whether or not O/K could come up with the cash, but they were only going to put up $150 million of the $700 million price, borrowing the rest; whereas the H/W/L group wound up putting up about $400 million of their own money.
    In the end, it didn’t matter because Harrington screwed O’Donnell with the Aramark deal.


  4. Nordberg

    17 years ago

    Yeah, the Sox would have won by 6-7 games had they resigned Pedro. Yeah, right.
    They would not have been swept by the White Sox. OK, they would have lost in four.
    First of all, the early playoff exit had more to do with Schilling’s injury than Pedro’s absence.
    Second, don’t leave out the injury to Foulke, an ineffective bullpen and the lack of bats at first and second.
    Third, give the White Sox credit. They were better by a mile. they did what the Red Sox did in ’04.
    You cannot run a ballclub when you overpay to aging, oft-injured players. HE IS NOT WORTH WHAT THE METS GAVE HIM.
    He was great in his day, but his day is DONE.
    He MIGHT have helped last year, but then the Red Sox would be paying him for the next THREE YEARS to sit on the DL.
    Maybe Clement wasn’t the best choice, but there wasn’t much available.


  5. Bring Back Pedro

    17 years ago

    Pedro Martinez has allowed 3 runs in 22 innings against the Yankees since leaving. So much for that excuse.

    You are correct, there was not much available in 2004, which means Pedro’s value was even greater than what the Mets offered.

    How come no Mets fan will say that they overpaid for Pedro? Only Sox fans? Could it be that Sox fans are making excuses for one of the worst moves in team history?

    Mets overpaid for Pedro the way the Yankees overpaid for Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson.

    Theo is to blame.


  6. Rick

    17 years ago

    Pedro: The Mets knew what Pedro was really worth, probably about what the RS figured. But they overpaid because they had extra value from Pedro: more butts in the seats, more hype around the team, buzz about the new TV network, get more free agents to come to NY Mets. All of which was worth for them to overpay him even given his diminishing returns. Only if the above didn’t happen for the Mets was it a bad investment, which of course it turned out good for them. The RS didn’t have that extra value with Pedro, so he was only valued at what he could do on the field. Don’t think Pedro didn’t know all this, he did and his agent did too.

    The issue with stars leaving is that the fans think that the players will perform at the highest level for the length of any contract, regardless of their age. Not typically true. Let’s see Johnny and Pedro in the last year or two of their contracts and see what the end result is. I hated losing Johnny but I understand he wasn’t worth the money the Yankees can afford to pay. It’s always about the money, forget the hometown discount and the “goodwill” for the club by keeping aging stars.


  7. Seth Mnookin

    17 years ago

    Hey, Nordberg and Bring Back Pedro — I’m shutting down the debate about Pedro and whether or not he should have been re-signed; it’s getting nasty, and I’m betting neither of you are going to change the other one’s minds…



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