On the day that New England remembered one of the great romances, on the day the 1967 pennant winning team was to honor Tony Conigliaro, the Red Sox ownership grabbed the stage and enacted “Blazing Bananas.”
At 4:42 p.m., right after Red Sox officials Eddie Kasko and Ed Kenney walked out the door asking what was going on, Buddy LeRoux walked in to the Fenway Park press room with his attorney, Allen Goodman, and announced “a reorganization of internal management.” LeRoux handed out a release - not on Red Sox stationary - stating that the limited partners had reorganized and named him sole Managing General Partner and named Judge Samuel Adams the club’s General Counsel. Then dropped the biggest bombshell.
In walked Dick O’Connell, who hadn’t set foot in Fenway Park since he was dismissed to begin the eight-month ownership battle in October, 1977. LeRoux announced that, under his authority as Managing General Partner, he had fired Haywood Sullivan as Executive Vice-President, General Manager, and replaced him with the man Haywood replaced. As he made the announcement, Sullivan stood in the back of the room with the gathering members of the 1967 team and watched.
A half-hour later, after LeRoux, O’Connell and Goodman had finished their press conference in front of the astounded former players, in walked Sullivan and John Harrington, representing the Yawkey Foundation. “I want to make a correction,” Sullivan announced. “The release that you hold before you states that the Red Sox announced this reorganization. The Red Sox did not. That announcement was made by Buddy LeRoux. It is illegal, invalid and, above all, not effective.” With that, Sullivan said he and the JR Yawkey Corporation would be in court this morning seeking a temporary restraining order invalidating the papers filed at the Secretary of State’s office by LeRoux and his allies earlier in the afternoon.
Then, as he further talked, Sullivan was asked what he thought of this whole scenario. He didn’t hesitate to answer: “Frankly, it stinks.”
What LeRoux is claiming is that it is his opinion that a majority of the limited partners can vote for a reorganization at any time. Sullivan and JRY Corp., the other two general partners with LeRoux, claim that the agreement clearly states that only the general partners have the power to make decisions. “The limited partners are just that,” said Sullivan, as they are in most tax-shelter limited partnerships. There are 30 limited partner shares, and since Kentucky coal magnate Rogers Badgett controls 12, LeRoux 2 and former club general counsel Al Curran - who resigned to avoid any seeming conflict of interest - 2, and they combined on this maneuver, they had the 16 votes they claim is necessary.
“The limiteds have become very concerned about the disarray in the general partnership,” said LeRoux. Asked if they thought that their interpretation would hold up in court, Goodman answered, “It’s the opinion of Mr. LeRoux’ attorney that it will.” Sullivan, Harrington and their attorneys from Bingham, Dana and Gould obviously disagree, and will head to court this morning to try to get this blocked. “The other two general partners and 14 limited partners (shares) do not agree, and some of them didn’t even know about this,” Sullivan claimed. The other 14 shares are owned by Harold Alfond, Thomas DiBenedetto, H.M. Stevens Inc., Dr. Arthur Pappas, Samuel Tamposi and Mrs. Jean Yawkey.
At one point yesterday, Sullivan addressed the club employees and told them that LeRoux’ position had not changed, and that he - Sullivan - was still in charge. LeRoux told them that that wasn’t true, that he - Buddy - was in charge.
And, for the night, the Boston Red Sox had two general managers who don’t speak to one another.
“I’m sitting here,” said Sullivan. “Nothing has been changed. It takes two general partnership votes to enact change.”
“I really don’t know what I’m doing,” said O’Connell. Asked if he had a desk, he answered, “I just hope that my car hasn’t been towed.” No one bothered to ask about the irony of LeRoux bringing back O’Connell after O’Connell helped lead the charge to try to keep LeRoux from getting control of the team in 1977. Or that Harrington was brought in by O’Connell and left when Sullivan and LeRoux took over.”I had to name a general manager to help the ballclub while the other problems are being resolved,” said LeRoux. “Probably we have the finest person right here in Boston in Dick O’Connell.”
Asked to explain Sullivan’s role in his setup, LeRoux said, “He and Mrs. Yawkey will continue as general partners. Their ownership status hasn’t changed.” LeRoux once again denied that he is trying to sell the club, although the other side claims that he is trying to grab control so he can get his $23 million from David Mugar. They claim that Ch. 4 and The Globe were called with the information before Sullivan and Mrs. Yawkey were informed.
But, then, the two sides are as bitter as characters from “The Autumn of the Patriarch.” And Sullivan and Harrington made it eminently clear that they resented all this on the night honoring Tony Conigliaro and the Boys of ‘67.
“It’s incredible that a matter like this comes up before such an important night,” said Harrington. He then admitted that they would be in court this morning seeking the restraining order. But, if they get the restraining order keeping Sullivan in his office and O’Connell in a parking space on Yawkey Way, what happens? “It could take a while,” Sullivan admitted. He didn’t say what would happen if he didn’t get the restraining order. Would he have to clear out his desk and go home? “We’ll get it,” replied Sullivan.
“We regret that the internal struggle - and we admit that there is an internal struggle - has become public, and appreciate that the ballclub itself has not been affected.”
The possibilities are endless. O’Connell and LeRoux could try to make a deal, and have Roger LaFrancois for Mark Bomback end up contested in court.
Anyway, last night the battle lines were drawn across the luxury boxes. Mrs. Yawkey sat in one. Next to hers, Sullivan watched with Harrington. Next to his, LeRoux sat with O’Connell.