Bill Belichick has built a compound on Nantucket
It won’t be long before Bill Belichick is back where his soul resides amid the sea and sandy bluffs of the private paradise he has created over decades on Nantucket.
Super Bowls come and go — Belichick is coaching the Patriots for a record eighth time in the NFL’s title game — but football’s greatest field general always returns to his corner of the island, where he is as comfortable strolling the crushed-shell paths as he has been belting out the 1960s pop hit “Love Potion No. 9’’ for a gathering of friends.
Belichick has made tens of millions of dollars as a master of his profession, but he has long remained a man of relatively simple wants. Chief among them has been developing a compound of cedar-shingled homes for his family and friends in Siasconset, a 17th-century fishing village on the historic island’s eastern shore that islanders call Sconset.
Belichick, whose hunger for privacy is legend, has rarely spoken publicly in detail about his connection to Nantucket and the sea. In the most common image of his life there, he is navigating his power boat, named VII Rings for his tally of Super Bowl titles as the Patriots head coach and as an assistant with the New York Giants.
But he briefly broke his silence last year for a Nantucket Magazine profile of him and his girlfriend, Linda Holliday.
“The island is spectacular,” Belichick told the publication. “The people are great, fishing, bike paths, the lighthouses, the beach, the history — I mean it’s got it all.”
Since Tom Brady was a toddler in 1979, Belichick has been amassing real estate in the seaside enclave that today is assessed at more than $10 million. He transferred two neighboring properties assessed at more than $4 million to his former wife Debby in their 2007 divorce.
Belichick, whose net worth has been estimated by various outlets that track such information at $35 million, has forsaken untold millions in ancillary income during his 18-year star turn in New England. His image is rarely for sale. No Dunkin’ Donuts spots. No how-to books. No exclusive line of hoodies.
Only one NFL coach has steadfastly refused to sell his likeness to the multibillion-dollar Madden football video game franchise: Belichick.
His experience and expertise are so prized — he has been the subject of case studies at institutions such as Harvard Business School — that Belichick could spend his offseason banking five-figure speaking fees. But he seldom takes money to speak other than for charity, as a former colleague discovered when he offered to pay the coach to appear at a sports medicine conference and Belichick delivered a speech for free.
Sometimes Belichick participates in documentaries, as he has done for ESPN and the NFL Network. He also might narrate one, as he did for the nonprofit World War II Foundation’s PBS program, “D-Day: Over Normandy.’’
But after the final Super Bowl whistle blows, the coach rarely seems focused on amassing more wealth. He has joined the duck boat parades (“No days off!’’) before jetting to California to appear in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament, where amateurs generally pay to play.
He has stopped by late-night television shows, as he did last year when he held hands with Julian Edelman while joking with Jimmy Fallon, and as he did in 2015 when he visited David Letterman — appearances that generally come with minimal compensation.
Belichick will resurface in March for the NFL scouting combine and in April for the draft. As the winter wanes, he might visit Florida’s Atlantic coast, where a corporation he controls bought a condominium at a Jupiter yacht club in 2009 for $1.4 million, according to public records. He and Holliday registered a 30-foot pleasure boat there in 2015.
But as the days grow longer and summer beckons, the 65-year-old coach is more likely to be seen pedaling Nantucket’s bike paths — Milestone, Madaket, and Surfside — or reacquainting with neighbors over ice cream at the Sconset Market.
The island is where he met the author David Halberstam in 2004, after Belichick had summered there for 25 years, Halberstam for 36. Halberstam wrote a book about him, “The Education of a Coach,’’ in which he addressed a bit of Belichick’s Nantucket life.
“If the island in recent years had become much glitzier, he was not part of the glitz,’’ Halberstam wrote. “He biked almost everywhere, dressed nattily as ever in a gray Patriots sweatshirt and, sometimes, a baseball cap.’’
One of the island’s best fishermen, Tom Mleczko, has yet to forget his first brush with Belichick in the mid 1990s. Mleczko, who operates Capt. Tom’s Charters, was leading a fishing expedition out of Madaket Harbor on the island’s western point with a small group that included Belichick’s friend, the late football Hall of Famer and sportscaster Frank Gifford.
Scheduled to push off at 4 a.m., the crew waited another 15 minutes for Belichick before they slowly set out through a creek that opens onto the sea. About 200 yards from the dock, someone aboard spotted the coach in the darkness.
“He had biked the whole 13 miles from his house and miscalculated the time,’’ Mleczko recalled in an interview. “I was amazed because he must have started at 3 a.m. He was very apologetic.’’
For nearly 15 years after that, Belichick volunteered to go fishing on Mleczko’s boat as an auction item for the Charity on Ice fund-raiser held by Mleczko’s daughter A.J., a gold medal winner with the 1998 US Olympic women’s hockey team, to support Nantucket Ice, a community skating rink.
Halberstam lauded Belichick’s citizenship on the island.
“Nantucket was at its heart a small town that had been inundated in recent years by if not the rich and famous, certainly the very rich and wannabe famous,’’ he wrote in 2004. “Not all of those people treated the locals with grace and courtesy, but there was widespread admiration for Belichick for the modesty with which he behaved and the good manners he showed to everyone.’’
“He’s a real fixture here,’’ Mleczko said. “He’s private, and he’s very understated. That doesn’t change. But one on one, or when he’s doing something he loves on the boat or with his family, he’s just tremendous.’’
An expanding footprint
Sconset is where many of Belichick’s finest memories have been made. It’s where he spent days surfcasting with his late father, Steve, discussing literature with his mother, Jeannette, and playing lacrosse with his children, Amanda, Steve, and Brian, who have become coaches like their father and grandfather.
Before Steve was married last summer in the Sconset chapel, his father took him on his last fishing trip as a bachelor, casting for stripers in the waters of their youths.
Golf, too, is part of Belichick’s Sconset life. He plays often at his home course, the picturesque Sankaty Head Golf Club, with the historic Sankaty lighthouse rising on the horizon.
Belichick first visited the island as a boy with his childhood friend, Mark Fredland, from Annapolis. Their fathers worked at the US Naval Academy, Belichick’s as an assistant football coach, Fredland’s as an economics professor, and the young Belichick took quickly to life in Sconset.
By the fall of ’79, when he was 27, Belichick was financially stable enough — he was in the first of his 12 seasons with the Giants — to pay $70,000 to the owners of Wade’s Cottages in Sconset for two lots on Shell Street near the water’s edge, according to public records.
He began building three homes there, one for himself, the others for his parents and in-laws, and relied heavily on Fredland, who had played lacrosse with him at Wesleyan University. Fredland had settled in Sconset and become a building contractor.
“It took five years altogether,” Belichick told the Globe in 2000 about the project. “I hammered a few nails, painted. A friend and I designed it, and I did some framing, but it wouldn’t be fair to say I built it. But I did get into it.’’
In 2006, nine months before they began their divorce proceedings, Bill and Debby Belichick made their largest real estate investment in the village, paying $4.6 million for a five-bedroom, 4½-bathroom home that abuts the original lots.
The home has belonged to Debby since the divorce, and she has remained active in the community, continuing to support some of their shared interests, including the Sconset Trust, which is committed to preserving the village.
Belichick, meanwhile, has expanded his real estate portfolio. Records show that in 2013 he bought a house on a neighboring lot for $2.1 million through a corporation he formed — a three-bedroom, three-bathroom property now assessed at $2.4 million.
In 2014, he bought another property on Shell Street for nearly $870,000 through a corporation — a building that is now listed as having four bedrooms and four bathrooms and assessed at $1.57 million.
Also in 2014, another of Belichick’s real estate entities bought a nearby home with two bedrooms and three bathrooms for $2.45 million. It is assessed at $2.5 million.
Debby Belichick last year sold for $1 million one of the Sconset properties she received in the divorce, but Bill Belichick still owns several other buildings on Shell Street that are assessed at $2.5 million.
“He’s got quite a little compound going,’’ said Susanne Greene, whose husband, Wade, sold Belichick his first Sconset property.
Nearly 40 years later, Greene describes the often-gruff coach as a good neighbor.
“He’s perfectly friendly around the village,’’ she said.
She should expect to see him again soon.