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Shake-up in works for reeling Olympics group

Celtics’ Pagliuca would take charge, amid fears USOC may lose patience

A plan to revamp Boston 2024 calls for chairman John Fish (center) to hand the reins to Steve Pagliuca (left), and for new advisers, including Red Sox executive Larry Lucchino.Globe Staff

Organizers of Boston 2024 are proposing to reshuffle its leadership and name Bain Capital executive and Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca as its chairman after a rocky start that threatened to derail the region’s bid for the Olympic Games, according to people familiar with the plan.

Under the reorganization, the current chairman, John Fish, who led the Boston bid to the US nomination and then into controversy, would step down voluntarily and become one of several vice chairmen of the privately funded effort to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

In addition, Red Sox president and chief executive Larry Lucchino, who has been involved in discussions in recent weeks over possibly overseeing the bid effort, would come on board as a strategic adviser to Boston 2024, according to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not been finalized. Lucchino, who has been under contract since he joined the Sox in 2002, would remain in his role with the team.

Joining Lucchino as a strategic adviser would be prominent Boston businessman Jack Connors, according to the people familiar with the plan.


“This is only a plan at this point. It requires further discussion with the USOC and the Boston 2024 board,” said Lucchino. “Until all of that happens this is simply a restructuring plan and nothing more.”

An associate of Pagliuca who declined to be named said he is in the process reaching out to fellow Bain executives and officials with Boston 2024 and the US Olympic Committee before formally accepting the new role. Pagliuca is currently a vice chairman of Boston 2024.

Lucchino and Connors would advise the senior leadership of Boston 2024 on a wide variety of matters, ranging from operations to personnel, and are expected to devote a significant amount of time to the Olympic effort.


Connors has been conspicuously quiet on the Olympics front through the earlier stages of the bid process, both in terms of a financial commitment and public support, but has been increasingly active behind the scenes in offering key officials counsel on how to emerge from the recent spate of controversies. The advisers would not be paid.

Peter Roby, the athletic director of Northeastern University, would also serve as a vice chairman.

The proposed shake-up is in response to concerns that have been raised in recent weeks by the USOC, which apparently has been increasingly agitated by the lack of public support, and the local group’s failure to publicize a clear plan, according to the people familiar with the reorganization.

The committee also wanted more of the leaders of Boston 2024 to have a background in sports, whether they be former athletes or executives with experience in the business of sports.

Matters came to a head last week, when the USOC sent an unsettling e-mail to Boston organizers. It prompted a conference call on Friday with the national committee to discuss the management changes.

The restructuring could bring to an end the dominant and highly public role of Fish, the chief executive of Suffolk Construction Co. and the driving force behind the Olympic effort since 2013.

In his hands, the idea of a Boston bid went from something few but he could imagine to reality. But since the USOC gave Boston its blessing as its bid city in January, the group under Fish’s leadership has pinballed from one controversy to another as poll numbers faded with the rising winter snow totals and consequent transit delays.


Fish has already withdrawn noticeably as the face of Boston 2024 in recent weeks. He canceled long-planned speaking engagements for at least two events, allowing Boston 2024 chief executive Richard A. Davey to take his place.

And Fish didn’t specifically mention the Olympics once in a speech on Wednesday before roughly 1,900 people gathered at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting.

The ascension of Pagliuca, combined with the additions of Lucchino and Connors, represent an acknowledgment by Boston 2024 that bold strokes are needed to jump start the bid to bring the Summer Games back to the United States for the first time since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Pagliuca is a shrewd private equity investor and driven sports fan — he played freshman basketball at Duke University — who regularly sits under the basket watching his Boston Celtics.

Pagliuca, along with principal owner Wyc Grousbeck, bought the Celtics in 2002 for what was then a record $360 million purchase for an NBA franchise. They brought in as head of basketball operations former Celtic Danny Ainge, who engineered the team’s 2008 championship run.

Pagliuca ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat that opened up after the death of Edward M. Kennedy in 2009.

Fish recruited Pagliuca early in Boston 2024’s formation to help oversee budgeting and other financial issues for the group, and Pagliuca and his colleagues at Bain were key donors to the organization’s first phase.


Connors cofounded the advertising agency Hill Holliday, and while he stepped down as chief executive long ago, he has remained a power broker and confidant to business leaders and politicians.

Connors was also the longtime chairman of the board of Partners HealthCare, the powerful hospital network.

He has remained an active philanthropist raising money for a variety of causes, including Catholic schools and a summer program for urban children known as Camp Harbor View.

Lucchino brings sports bona fides to Boston 2024.

He has spent four decades working with four professional teams; in addition to the Sox, Lucchino has worked with the Washington Redskins, the San Diego Padres, and the Baltimore Orioles.

He has a Super Bowl ring and four World Series rings to show for it.

He also knows how to build stadiums — a much-needed skill in Olympic planning. Lucchino helped both the Padres and the Orioles construct new venues.

Camden Yards, the Orioles’ old-fashioned baseball stadium, became a model for others around the country.

Boston 2024 arguably saw its high-water mark back in January, the day dignitaries from the USOC arrived to celebrate their choice of Boston.

The International Olympic Committee plans to make a decision in 2017, and the competition with several European cities — Hamburg, Rome and Paris — is expected to be fierce.

Boston 2024 has proposed a largely privately funded Summer Games, which would depend on corporate donations, ticket sales and broadcast fees. Under the plan, Olympic facilities would be financed by private investors, who would lease them to Boston 2024 for the Games and then run them after the Olympics as commercial ventures. The plan depends on $1 billion from federal taxpayers, for security.


Even before Boston became the US bid city, the local committee was criticized for keeping too many details of its plan private.

Organizers pledged to be transparent, but in March the group refused to release the salary of former governor Deval Patrick, who was hired to promote the bid.

Boston 2024 revealed his pay only after Mayor Martin J. Walsh demanded that the group make all of its salary data public.

Though the committee is funded entirely from private donations, its arrangement to pay Patrick $7,500 a day for occasional travel drew heavy criticism. The former governor ultimately said he would forgo the fee.

Though Walsh early on opposed a public referendum, Boston 2024 subsequently yielded, and now says it would sponsor one in November 2016. It pledged not to move forward unless the referendum passes.

The bid has been greeted by some with skepticism because of concerns that taxpayers may foot the bill if there are cost overruns.

A March poll suggested just 36 percent of Greater Boston voters backed the bid, though more recent polls suggested that a majority across the state and within Boston would back a bid that prohibits public spending to pay for sports venues and the running of the Olympics.

Jon Chesto of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Shirley Leung can be reached at shirley.leung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @leung. Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark.