Is Jack Connors the Last King of Boston?
“No, Jack,” Fuller had said. But there was no dissuading him. He knew a guy at Disney and had already arranged for the entire family to have VIP treatment during their vacation. No need to wait in any line. Reservations at any restaurant. It would be his treat. The shot of the family at Disney World hanging on Charlie’s back wall? A reminder of “just how special” that trip for the Manjourides family had been, Fuller would later say.
And so, three years later, on that warm July morning, when Connors looked up at the photo and asked how the family was doing, Fuller not only smiled, but her eyes moistened a little. “We’re fine, Jack.”
She then brought him his water and told him it was okay if he parked out back, in the spot marked for family.
GENEROSITY ALONE HAS NEVER defined Connors, however. At Hill Holliday he was ruthless with competitors, taking business away — stealing it, really — based on connections that no one could rival. In the early 1990s, Fran Kelly, now the vice chairman of Arnold, worked for a Rhode Island agency that counted Cambridge software company Lotus Development as a client. Lotus brought in a new chief marketing officer, a guy with a very Irish name: Mark Flanagan. As soon as they found that out, Kelly’s colleagues began kidding him: It’s only a matter of time now before Connors goes after Lotus.
That’s exactly what happened. Because of Connors’s rapport with seemingly every guy named Flanagan, Sullivan, McDonough, or, hell, for that matter, Kelly, Kelly’s agency lost Lotus to Hill Holliday, which led Kelly to eventually join Arnold. “I like Jack; I respect him,” Kelly says. “But, you know, there’s a really steely side to him.”
Connors’s employees saw it, too. Many endured “Jack Attacks,” which became so legendary in business circles that Fortune magazine once named Connors one of “America’s Toughest Bosses.” Give him a bad projection and Connors might kick the chair of the offending employee. Or he might scream loud enough for the whole office to hear. Whatever the case, Jack Attacks were so commonplace that “one year at a Christmas party, we wrote a song about it,” says Peter Rizzo, who worked at Hill Holliday in the 1980s. It was set to the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
In that era, Fenway Franks was a Hill Holliday client — a very demanding one. One Friday, Connors received an angry call from Fenway Franks CEO Jack Satter, describing how John Verret, the man on the account, had screwed up. Connors called Verret into his office, seething. “For what you’re making I could get a line out the street,” Connors screamed. “If I wanted to hire assholes, I could hire three assholes to do your job!”