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Boston students see ‘Selma’ for free

Let’s go to the movies

With all the critical acclaim being heaped on the civil rights drama “Selma,” which recently won an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, two big names in Boston’s African-American business community wanted to make sure black students have a chance to see the movie, too.

So Flash and Bennie Wiley (above) —he’s of counsel at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, she’s principal of The Wiley Group — reached out to their network of friends and colleagues, who collectively raised $120,000 for the Students of Selma Fund, which at last count has enabled 10,890 Boston middle and high schoolers to see the film for free. They just had to show a valid ID or report card at participating theaters.


The idea arose during a conversation the Wileys had with friends who led a similar effort in New York City. “We said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if every child in the country had an opportunity to see this movie since it’s such an important part of our nation’s history?” Bennie Wiley recalled. “And the response was enthusiastic and immediate.”

The scores of donors included Wayne and Jacqui Budd, Ralph and Deborah Scott Martin, Mo and Stacy Cowan, Carol and Bernie Fulp, Liz Walker, and Skip Gates. Also: Harvard basketball coach Tommy Amaker and his wife, Stephanie, of McLean Hospital; Emerson College president Lee Pelton; restaurateur Darryl Settles and his wife, Dr. Lisa Owens; Cambridge College president Deborah Jackson and her husband, Duane; Steven Rogers, Shelle Santana, and Andy Zelleke of Harvard Business School; and Harvard Law School’s Charles Ogletree and his wife, Pam, CEO of Children’s Services of Roxbury.

“African-American professionals are hungry for ways that we can make a difference in our communities, and it’s not always evident what we can do,” said Bennie Wiley. “Having something that was concrete and clear, and for our children and for our country, and that was also part of our city, just made it very compelling.” - SACHA PFEIFFER



At Suffolk Downs, waiting for the phone to ring

If Suffolk Downs is going to be in the mix for Boston’s Olympics bid, someone at the Boston 2024 Partnership should probably pick up the phone and make a call.

Suffolk Downs became available as a venue for the Games when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided in September to award a casino license to Wynn Resorts instead of Mohegan Sun, which had planned a gambling palace for the horse track.

Boston 2024 is eyeing Suffolk Downs but as a backup plan. Boston 2024 listed the track in its bid as a secondary site for an Olympic stadium if the partnership’s dreams of clearing Widett Circle, on the edge of South Boston, for the Games don’t come to fruition. Suffolk Downs could also be affected if plans to put an Athletes Village at UMass Boston don’t work.

The fact that Suffolk Downs was listed as “venue option #2” for the stadium in Boston 2024’s bid papers came as a surprise to Chip Tuttle, the track’s chief operating officer. (Suffolk’s horse racing ended in October but it continues to operate as a betting parlor for simulcasting.) Tuttle said neither he nor track co-owners Joe O’Donnell and Richard Fields were contacted by Boston 2024 before the bid was filed.

Tuttle said it’s too early to contemplate whether they would be willing to let their track become an Olympic venue. Boston probably won’t find out if it will host the 2024 Summer Games until 2017. But Tuttle left the door open when we contacted him.


“We are supportive of the effort to bring the Games to Boston,” Tuttle said. “We haven’t had any conversations with the city or the organizers about any potential uses for Suffolk as a venue. . . . If they’re truly considering our property as a potential venue, I think we’d need to understand a lot more about that than what we know now, which is only what we’ve seen and heard in the media.” — JON CHESTO


Ex-Covidien chief lands himself some new gigs

Covidien chief executive José Almeida guided his medical device company into the arms of larger competitor Medtronic, and guided himself out of his job.

Almeida, who has been based at Covidien’s main corporate office in Mansfield, left as a result of last week’s megamerger. He’s also bound to a noncompete agreement that prevents him from working for a rival company for 12 months.

But you shouldn’t worry about him. In addition to a multimillion-dollar severance package, the 52-year-old native of Brazil just lined up a couple of sweet part-time gigs. On Jan. 12, Hopkinton tech giant EMC Corp. disclosed it had expanded its board and Almeida would be taking one of the two new seats. Then on Jan. 21, Norwood-based chip maker Analog Devices said it, too, will add Almeida to its board.

The pay for these jobs isn’t chump change: Director compensation at Analog Devices is typically in the $200,000 to $265,000 range, and EMC’s ranges from $285,000 to $391,000, when the values of restricted stock awards are included. And Almeida’s already on the board of directors at State Street Corp., making him one of the busiest Massachusetts executives without a full-time job. — JON CHESTO



DesPrez shifts from Canada to new seat in Florida

A few years ago, John DesPrez III was vying for a corner office in Toronto as head of Canada’s Manulife Financial, which owns Boston mainstay John Hancock Financial.

He lost that bid. And in 2010 DesPrez quietly left Manulife and took a four-year hiatus (two of which were paid for and required by his non-compete contract). Now, DesPrez, 58, is back in the executive suite, albeit at a small firm in a much warmer climate.

DesPrez recently moved to Boca Raton, Fla., to become chief executive officer of Incapital, a privately owned brokerage firm that specializes in underwriting bonds and is expanding to distribute annuities and other wealth management products.

While he has been serving on boards and dabbling in private equity consulting in recent years, DesPrez said he was looking for an opportunity to run a small, entrepreneurial company. He also has an ownership stake in Incapital, but he declined to say how much.

DesPrez said he’s left his days as a corporate executive and “paid mercenary to management” behind.

The same won’t be said about his Boston ties. He is keeping his Back Bay home and will remain involved on the board of the Institute of Contemporary Art, not far from John Hancock’s offices. He also still plans to root for the New England Patriots. — DEIRDRE FERNANDES



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