Is Jack Connors the Last King of Boston?

By Paul Kix | Boston Magazine |

The other strange thing about the article was its placement. One of the most powerful men in town chairing arguably the most influential board in the state had failed to report his interest in a $450 million sale — and the story runs inside the paper? “I heard thirdhand that Jack felt that he had won on that one, that he had worked us over,” says another person assigned to the series. “I didn’t think that was the case.”

Connors himself won’t comment on the piece. About his alleged conflict of interest, he says he disclosed everything he needed to disclose to the Partners board. Globe editor Marty Baron won’t comment on the story, either. But another person at the paper that was close to the Partners series says, “It was such a terrible spring last year…. We were in a crisis. We weren’t going to beat the hell out of someone who might save us.”
    

“JUST SO YOU KNOW, this entire morning will be scripted,” Connors says, half smiling. We’re standing outside St. Mary’s Chapel at BC on a dewy Tuesday morning in June. We’ve just left Mass — Connors goes about five times a week — and he wants to show me what he does these days, now that he’s made two fortunes and doesn’t see the point in a proper Jack Attack. We get in his black Lexus and head to Dorchester.

A few years ago, he got a call from Boston Mayor Tom Menino. The mayor described how inner-city 11- to 14-year-olds “were too old to be young and too young to be old,” and therefore at risk of violence. To keep these kids out of trouble, Connors and Menino built a summer camp on Long Island, off Quincy. Fifty percent of the kids had never swum in the ocean before, even though they lived three miles from it. Camp Harbor View just completed its fourth season. Enrollment has increased every year. Full-time staffers check up on the kids throughout the year. Some former campers are now counselors-in-training. It’s all thanks to Connors, who has raised $25 million thus far. The camp has exceeded even the mayor’s ambitions. As Menino would later say, “When Jack does anything, he does it all the way.”

This morning’s trip is to Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy. The car ride, these post–Hill Holliday years — they’re really about Connors’s legacy. When Connors discusses that topic, which isn’t often, he’s cryptic. He’s savvy enough to know that saying “my legacy” is counter-productive to the very pursuits you secretly want the legacy to comprise; it also makes you sound like an ass. When he talks about it at all, he sounds like a politician. He says he doesn’t care what people think of Hill Holliday. He wants to be remembered for coming here — to Roxbury, Mattapan, Dorchester, the places where “there’s nobody else standing in line to help” — and giving away his money.