The Owner Takes a Wife
Buttoned-down Red Sox owner John Henry revealed a very different side of himself during his topsy-turvy courtship of Linda Pizzuti. (We’ve got the soul-baring e-mails and love-struck vacation photos to prove it!)
Pizzuti is the kind of person who always remembers your birthday. She’s also the first one to pick up where the conversation left off, as if she’s got a BlackBerry full of the major transitions in your life. When I met her three and a half years ago, there was a group of us who’d recently become close. We’d all grown up in the Hub, and most of us had lived elsewhere after college; now, in our twenties, we were back and eager to redefine ourselves as adults. As it happens, we were also all raised by entrepreneurial fathers who’d taught us to follow our own path, as they had.
Pizzuti’s dad, Don, moved to New England from Italy when he was a teenager. He worked as an engineer for companies like Polaroid and GE while building a real estate portfolio on the side. Eventually he ventured out on his own, and today his development firm is full of Pizzutis, including Linda, 30, and her three older sisters. Linda, who has a master’s in real estate development from MIT and is LEED accredited, focuses on sustainable projects, most recently a group of green townhouses in Lynnfield, where she grew up.
An avid traveler, Pizzuti has eaten dinner atop Mount Kilimanjaro and gone diving in search of shipwrecks in the Philippines. It’s not rare for her to jet to London for a weekend or skip off to Egypt on a family vacation. When she met Henry, she was gearing up for a 10-day visit to Europe.
Pizzuti figured their first encounter would be their last: His fame was enough to put her off, but the fact that he was 29 years older was the real deal-breaker. Her family was old-school Italian, and they’d impressed upon her the importance of reputation. “On paper, it didn’t look great. He was twice my age, and divorced,” she says. “I love Boston—but it’s a small town.”
Still, wanting to be polite, she sent Henry an e-mail thanking him for the meal. He wrote back, claiming MIT president Susan Hockfield had told him at an event that she really hoped Pizzuti wouldn’t retire from the alumni board. Pizzuti realized Henry had Googled her and was using what he’d learned to let her know she was still on his mind. But she didn’t respond, and Henry assumed he wouldn’t see or hear from her again.
And he might not have, if Boston weren’t such a small town.
On June 18, Henry and Pizzuti happened to attend the same event at the new Renaissance Hotel on the waterfront. Pizzuti was immediately approached by Henry’s Circus comrades, armed with questions out of a ninth-grade playbook: Did she like Henry? Why didn’t she return his e-mails? Taken aback, Pizzuti pulled no punches. She told them she was scared of Henry’s public persona.
Eventually, she and Henry found themselves in the same conversation circle. Someone mentioned the previous night’s Red Sox game, and Henry asked Pizzuti, “Did you see it?” “No,” she answered, in a tone intimating she had a life, “I was on a date.” Yet as they talked, she found herself charmed by his wit and intellect. With some help from Werner and Kane, Henry convinced her to join them for a dinner at Via Matta with chef-owner Michael Schlow.
Afterward, they decided to head over to the Estate, one of Kane’s nightclubs. It was pouring outside, big drops plopping onto the sidewalk. Henry rushed out to Via Matta’s patio, grabbed a table umbrella, and, brandishing it with pride, offered Pizzuti shelter. As the group walked up Boylston Street, passersby and drivers stopped and stared at the two, sauntering through the rain under an umbrella fit for Alice in her wonderland.