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Pagliuca takes over as Boston 2024 chairman

Steve Pagliuca, co-owner of the Boston Celtics and co-chair of the Boston 2024 fundraising and finance committee.Lane Turner/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The board of the local Olympic bid committee, Boston 2024, on Thursday confirmed Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca as its new chairman, putting the Bain Capital executive at the helm of an organization looking for a corporate turnaround.

Pagliuca pledged in a phone interview that his initial focus will be to update plans for building and running the Games and said he expects public support for the Olympic effort to rise if the committee produces a thoughtful plan for delivering the major venues with private funding.

“The crux of this is getting an objective, fact-based [plan] out there for all constituencies so they can see the potential benefits and risks,” Pagliuca said shortly after the board named him chair.


The overhaul of the bid’s leadership extends beyond the top job: Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino and former advertising executive Jack Connors have been made unpaid senior advisers for the bid committee, according to Boston 2024. Peter Roby, director of athletics and recreation for Northeastern University, has joined the bid as a vice chairman and a director of the board.

Pagliuca assumes the chairmanship of the private nonprofit group at a critical point in its short history, with the bid committee facing political pressure to produce the updated venue plan, and amid signals from the US Olympic Committee that Boston must build more public support in order to keep alive its bid to bring the Summer Games back to the United States for the first time since 1996.

Pagliuca takes the leadership baton from outgoing chairman John Fish, the Suffolk Construction chief who had led the local Olympic movement since 2013, when it was just a farfetched idea nurtured by a small group of Massachusetts business leaders. The move has been billed as a friendly transfer of power, and Fish will stay involved as a vice chairman of the committee.


Pagliuca said Fish asked him about three weeks ago to consider taking the post; Fish, who was the face of the committee through several controversies, publicly endorsed the move in a statement Thursday.

Former New York City deputy mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff — who led New York’s unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Summer Games and now serves on the boards of Boston 2024 and the USOC — said he has known Pagliuca for 25 years through business connections. Like Pagliuca, Doctoroff has worked in private equity.

“Steve is just the right person to take on this role,” Doctoroff said. “He’s incredibly disciplined, organized, and financially sophisticated. Since a lot of the concerns people have expressed are around money, he will have the credibility to talk to the public and the press and the political establishment about the budgets in a way that very few people could.”

Opponents of the bid questioned the significance of the leadership change.

“Boston 2024 doesn’t have a leadership problem — it has a product problem, and is still asking taxpayers to pick up the tab for cost overruns,” said the group No Boston Olympics, in a statement attributed to co-chair Kelley Gossett.

This summer will be critical for Boston 2024. In addition to breaking in new leadership, the bid committee has promised to release its new venue plan by June 30. Pagliuca said the plan will include “a detailed framework” for delivering the two most challenging Olympic facilities — the stadium and the athlete’s village. Boston 2024 will also provide more budget details on the revenues and the costs of the Games, he said.


The bid committee has proposed a largely privately funded Olympics, financed primarily by corporate sponsorships, ticket sales, and broadcast fees. Under the plan, some key 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 or more from federal taxpayers, for security.

This summer, the committee must continue to build support. Recent polls suggest statewide support is below 50 percent, though a majority of voters would approve a bid that guarantees no tax money would be used to build or run the Games.

USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said Thursday Pagliuca is the right person for the task now facing Boston 2024.

“They need to describe to the City of Boston what this bid is about, financially and otherwise,” Blackmun said in an interview. “Steve’s not just a numbers guy. He’s highly respected, humble, and totally committed.”

Blackmun acknowledged that the bid needs to show progress if it is ultimately going to be successful but said the USOC has not imposed any ultimatums on Boston 2024. The USOC continues to conduct public polling on the bid, he said. While not revealing the numbers, Blackmun said the surveys have shown an uptick in public support similar to what several public polls have reflected.


Public support will be a significant factor when the International Olympic Committee meets in 2017 to choose the host for the 2024 Games. The competition could include several prominent European cities, such as Hamburg, Rome, Paris, and Budapest.

The bid committee has called for a referendum on the bid in 2016, and pledges not to move forward unless they win a majority of voters statewide and within the City of Boston.

Boston 2024 has had a difficult five months since being named in January to represent the United States in the worldwide contest for the Games. Polls over the winter suggested support for the bid plummeted during record snows that overwhelmed the MBTA. And though the committee is funded entirely from private donations, it was roundly criticized for its arrangement to pay former governor Deval Patrick $7,500 a day for occasional travel on behalf of the bid. Patrick, who has since joined Bain Capital, ultimately said he would forgo the fee.

Fish recruited Pagliuca early in Boston 2024’s formation to help oversee budgeting, fund-raising, and financial issues.

Pagliuca said his unpaid chairmanship is part time, and he will continue his roles with Bain and the Celtics. He said Thursday it is too soon to say if he will call for changes to Boston 2024’s professional staff.

Connors cofounded the advertising agency Hill Holliday and was longtime Partners HealthCare chairman.

Lucchino has spent four decades in professional sports, working for the Washington Redskins, the San Diego Padres, and the Baltimore Orioles before joining the Red Sox.


The Globe first reported May 10 that the Boston 2024 leadership shake-up was under consideration.

Michael Levenson of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Mark Arsenault can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark