Joe O’Donnell and WEEI

July 10th, 2006 → 10:44 am @

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