The Fifty Families (Part 1)
We've been hearing a lot lately about the American family. That it's threatened or already in decline. That their careers require each successive generation to wander farther from the last. That corporate megaconglomerates have destroyed the very notion of the family business.
Not, apparently, in this town. Here, families stay put. And with their deep roots–and, in some cases, boundless energy and sheer numbers (along with the occasional spot of nepotism)–many have amassed extraordinary wealth, fame, success, and power.
Imagine sitting around the dinner table with the Epstein family of Brookline, for example. Dad's a well-known author, one daughter writes for television, her husband is a movie actor, and a brother is the general manager of the Red Sox. Or the Blutes. There are 11 of them, including a former congressman who hosts a popular radio talk show, a TV anchorwoman, two doctors, and a partner at a major Boston law firm.
Of course, you don't have to be an overachiever to be on this list. But you do have to have some influence, whether in the arts, business, politics, media, or medicine. Being rich doesn't hurt, either: More than a few of these families have assets in the billions. In this town, it especially helps to stick around awhile; several of our families have been prominent in Boston since at least the 18th century. But there are also the descendants of immigrants who came here in the first half of the last century with nothing, and even more recent arrivals who have built fresh family dynasties with breathtaking speed.
You'll recognize many of these names. After all, power brings prominence. But you'll also learn about some influential families that exercise their power quietly, and more than a few local luminaries you didn't even know were related to each other.
Many of these families are in business together–couples, parents and children, brothers, and, increasingly, fathers and daughters. But family businesses also can drive people apart. The Fish construction clan. The Demoulas supermarket dynasty. The Saunders hotel family. The Thompsons of Cambridge. All have suffered very public family feuds. They appear here nonetheless because, even split into separate factions, they pack clout.
Still, it's clear that Boston remains a family town. And these are the families that run Boston.
Reported by Sarah Adams, Cheryl Alkon, Michael Blanding, James Burnett, Erin Byers, Scott Kirsner, Kari Molvar, Katherine Ozment, Andrew Rimas, and John Wolfson.
Other major-league sports team owners get booed. The Kraft family has been met with the rousing cheers of millions on the Super Bowl victories of their New England Patriots twice in three years, as patriarch Bob Kraft held aloft the Vince Lombardi Trophy on City Hall Plaza. Kraft is one of the most powerful owners in the NFL, and wife Myra is a force to be reckoned with herself. The daughter of Jacob Hiatt, a Worcester mogul who owned the paper and cardboard company Rand-Whitney–which Bob Kraft acquired in a leveraged buyout in 1972, eventually folding into his box factory and paper mill empire–she sits on more boards than there are days in the week, including the United Way, the American Repertory Theatre, and Brandeis University, her alma mater. She's president of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, which has given away more than $2 million since she founded it in 1994, and a trustee (along with all the other members of the clan) of the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation. Son Jonathan has become familiar to game-day viewers as vice chairman of the Patriots, with broad responsibilities for strategic planning, and as operator of the Revolution soccer team and the $325 million Gillette Stadium. He's also president and COO of the Kraft Group, the holding company for the family's business, and sits on the board of the tony Belmont Hill School. Daniel Kraft is president and COO of the family's International Forest Products Corporation, one of the largest privately held pulp and paper trading companies in the world. He's on the board of his alma mater, Tufts, and the Boys & Girls Club–of whose Chelsea branch his brother, Joshua, is executive director. Another brother, David, who followed Jonathan through Harvard Business School, works for the family's investments arm, specializing in media and technology.
By their own standards, Ned and Abby Johnson, the fabulously wealthy and famously reticent father-daughter team who own and operate Fidelity Investments, have been making a lot of noise lately. The senior Johnson has spoken out against reforms the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed for the mutual fund industry in the wake of the market-timing scandals, and last fall his increasingly activist firm–the nation's largest, overseeing more than $1 trillion on behalf of 18 million shareholders–leaned on the New York Stock Exchange to institute an electronic-trading system. In the past three years, Fidelity and its employees have given nearly half a million dollars to political parties and candidates, most of them Republicans. Less flashy than many of its rivals, Fidelity nonetheless continues to score consistent returns for its clients, affording the low-profile Johnsons the type of unflagging, far-reaching clout more glamorous corporate titans could only hope for. Just ask Disney boss Michael Eisner, who lost his job as chairman of his company's board after Fidelity, in a rare move for a mutual fund company, decided to side with other dissatisfied shareholders in March and withhold support for the embattled exec. The Johnsons also control the very, very rich Fidelity Foundation and, through it, the company's increasingly important local philanthropic giving.
The dynasty endures. Now the longest-serving Massachusetts senator in history, patriarch Ted has more than seniority in Washington; he has become the symbol (for better or worse) of the Democratic Party, the guy the networks cut away to during the State of the Union speech, the de facto benefactor of Boston's winning bid for this summer's Democratic convention, and now a man clearly rejuvenated at age 72 by his role in fellow Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign. Meanwhile, polls show nephew Joe is a front-runner in a hypothetical campaign for Kerry's Senate seat if Kerry wins the White House. Another nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is doing his part with a new book about George W.'s environmental policies called Crimes against Nature .
The Gifford family's size is surpassed only by its eclectic success. Best known is Charles (“Chad”), who worked his way up from loan officer to CEO of FleetBoston, oversaw Fleet's $47 billion sale to Bank of America, and last month became chairman of the combined company. He's on an impressive roster of boards, including those of Northeastern, WGBH, the Symphony, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Chad's wife, Anne, makes housing and services for the homeless her cause, sitting on the boards of Wellspring House in Gloucester and Bridge over Troubled Waters in Boston and teaming up with Reebok CEO Paul Fireman as part of a panel on family homelessness. Brother John (“Jock”), a founder of the Cambridge and Nantucket architectural firm Design Associates, helped develop and has regularly appeared on WGBH-TV's popular program This Old House . His wife, Brigid Sullivan, is vice president for children's, educational, and interactive programming at 'GBH. The family also is a force in the restaurant industry: Jock designed and oversees Nantucket's popular Straight Wharf Restaurant, while brother K. Dun began his career in food by opening a bakery in Faneuil Hall in 1976. His partner? Longtime friend John Kerry. Also a former co-owner of the Harvest restaurant in Cambridge, Dun is founder and president of Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust, which advocates healthy eating and sustainable food sources. Sister Bambi Mleczko made a name for herself as the first woman commodore of the Nantucket Yacht Club; her daughter A. J. played on the U.S. national women's hockey team, which brought home a gold medal from the 1998 Olympics.
Talk about a power couple: Anne Finucane rode the Fleet merger to the top, becoming Bank of America's regional boss last month and the most powerful woman in Boston. Meanwhile, hubby Mike Barnicle is back in local print again as a columnist for the Herald .
Stephen Mugar came to America from Armenia in 1905 and set about transforming his father's grocery store into the huge Star Market chain. Son David and his sister, Carolyn, have used their late father's wealth to support high-profile public causes, including the most-high-profile of them all: the annual Fourth of July celebration on the Esplanade. Carolyn is executive director of the Somerville-based nonprofit Farm Aid, founded the Armenia Tree Project, and was married to late congressional candidate and activist John O'Connor. David was CEO of WHDH-TV, Channel 7, until the station was sold in 1993, making him even wealthier. He now owns hotels, commercial real estate, and shopping centers. This family's name is plastered all over several major Boston landmarks, including the Museum of Science Mugar Omni Theater (David Mugar is a museum trustee), a street on Beacon Hill, and the Boston University Mugar Memorial Library (despite a nasty feud that ended with BU handing over his $3 million donation to two other charities last year when Mugar got impatient with the pace of renovations). He is also a trustee of WGBH, a corporator of Partners HealthCare, and a former trustee of the Belmont Hill School.
If the Rappaports hadn't forever left their stamp on this city with Charles River Park, the 1959 megadevelopment that marked Boston's questionable first attempt at urban renewal, you could certainly find their name on an impressive array of medical and municipal charities and scholarships. Together with sons Jim and Jerry Jr., patriarch Jerome “Jerry” Lyle Rappaport founded the New Boston Fund (wife Phyllis is a director), one of New England's most powerful real estate investment firms, with holdings in the neighborhood of 14 million square feet and assets of about $1.4 billion. The family has put some of its profits into the Jerome Lyle Rappaport Charitable Foundation, a philanthropy to promote emerging leaders run by Rappaport, Phyllis, and Jim and Jerry Jr., and the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. A former member of the Republican National Committee, Jim ran for lieutenant governor in 2002 and against John Kerry for Senate in 1990, both unsuccessfully. Jerry Jr. is a former president of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board and cochairs the Commonwealth Housing Task Force. Sister Nancy, a child psychiatrist, is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and director of school-based programs for the Cambridge Health Alliance. Phyllis Rappaport, too, has made medicine a cause: She's a director of the President's Advisory Council at Massachusetts General Hospital and a member of the McLean Hospital National Council.
With a fortune estimated at $2.1 billion, the Hostetters quietly give away around $45 million a year through their Barr Foundation to mostly local institutions including WGBH and the Children's Museum; theirs is the biggest philanthropy in Boston based on asset size, and takes applications from potential beneficiaries by invitation only. They work as a team. The founder of Continental Cablevision, husband Amos now spends his days managing the foundation's $850 million in investments (along with his own); wife Barbara gives away its money, taking time out to head the board of trustees of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Governor Mitt Romney has followed in the footsteps of his own late father, George, a former governor of Michigan. His clout has been enhanced during this election season as he cozies up to another George–George W. Bush, who is likely to rely on Romney for help in undermining John Kerry in his home state. Romney also has collateral from his years as vice president, then CEO, of Bain & Company, and as founder of the investment firm Bain Capital. Wife Ann, who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, works for the New England chapter of the MS Society and serves on the boards of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Children's Trust Fund, among others. Son Tagg, who worked on Romney's gubernatorial campaign, just took a job as director of strategic planning at Canton-based Reebok. Romney's nephew, Timothy Robinson, is also getting in on the action, ghostwriting Romney's forthcoming book, Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership and the Olympic Games.
One of the most memorable ads former Congressman Peter Blute took out during his political career featured a photo of the garrulous Republican standing with all 10 of his siblings at the wedding of his youngest sister, who had just become Mrs. Paula Ebben. “The message was something like, 'When you come from a family this big, you can't help but learn to get along with people,'” remembers Ebben, who coanchors the weekend newscasts on WBZ-TV, Channel 4. That skill has served the Blutes well. After postponing her journalism career to start her own family, Ebben, a mother of four, shot from the obscurity of a local cable outlet in Worcester to a position as one of Channel 4's rising stars. The two Blute boys who followed their doctor father into medicine wound up practicing and teaching surgery at UMass Worcester and chairing the urology department at the Mayo Clinic, and the three girls who went into education include a “Teacher of Excellence” award winner. Joseph Blute, a partner at Mintz Levin, chairs that law firm's political action committee and cochairs the law and policy committee of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Industry Council. As for Peter, the only sibling to follow family tradition by seeking public office–his grandfather represented Southie in the legislature, and his uncle was a Boston City Council president–he has capitalized on the setbacks he's faced as only the product of a football-team-size brood could. Although he lost his seat in Congress after just two terms and then his post as chief of Massport after a now-infamous booze cruise featuring a breast-baring mystery woman, his influence has never been greater thanks to the popular morning talk show he cohosts on WRKO.
Winning your party's presidential nomination tends to go a long way toward erasing the differences and diffidence of the past, so it's not surprising that once-sneering local Democrats hold John Kerry in newfound esteem. The senator's brother, Cam, a partner at Mintz Levin, is one of his biggest fundraisers, closest confidants, and trusted liaisons to key moneymen and kingmakers, while his wife, the staggeringly wealthy Teresa Heinz Kerry, possesses a type of power rarely found in politics–the kind that comes from the willingness (to the frequent dismay of Kerry's handlers) to say exactly what's on her mind. With a personal fortune of $550 million, she oversees a philanthropic foundation with assets of around $1 billion . Kerry's daughter Alex is an aspiring actress who had small roles in State and Main and Spartan ; Heinz Kerry's youngest son, Christopher, has taken a role in the senator's campaign.
The Leventhal name has been synonymous with real estate in Boston since the 1940s, when patriarch Norman, now 86, first joined forces with his brother Robert to create what would eventually bloom into the real estate construction and management behemoth the Beacon Companies. The brothers brokered deals to acquire or develop the former Le Meridien (now Langham) hotel, Center Place, Rowes Wharf, One Post Office Square, and 75 State Street, among many, many others; a separate arm, Beacon Properties, went public in 1994 and quickly became one of the nation's largest real estate investment trusts. Three years later, Norman's son Alan sold Beacon Properties to Chicago-based Equity Office and founded yet another privately owned real estate investment trust, Beacon Capital Partners. He's been buying up some of the city's most iconic properties, including the John Hancock complex for $910 million, and is developing the $400 million Channel Center. A longtime Democratic fundraiser, Alan is cochairing the host committee for the Democratic National Convention, while Norman helped to found and underwrite the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, which provides access to more than 350,000 historic maps.
Inducted together into the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce's Academy of Distinguished Bostonians, John and Diddy Cullinane made their fortune when he sold his pioneering high-tech firm, Cullinet Software, for $330 million in 1989. They've been giving away many of those millions ever since, and investing much of the rest to help small startups. His Cullinane Group backs emerging high-tech companies in Ireland, from which his parents emigrated in 1929, and in Boston, where he helps provide venture capital for local startups through a group of like-minded executives called CommonAngels; her Black & White Boston encourages interracial understanding and raises money for high school students to go on to college, most famously with its annual Black & White on Green golf tournament. He was founding chairman of both the Massachusetts Software Council and the Boston Public Library Foundation, sits on the board of the American Ireland Fund, and helped get local Catholic schools wired to the Internet. Son John Jr. handles even more money than his parents: He's the president and CEO of BancBoston Capital, overseeing a portfolio worth $3.7 billion.
Billionaire Richard Egan made his fortune cofounding computer data storage leviathan EMC, now this state's largest technology firm. He used some of his money to establish himself as a major contributor to the Republican Party, leading to an appointment as ambassador to Ireland. Since Egan returned from Dublin in late 2002, he has continued to give large sums to the GOP, and is listed as one of President George W. Bush's “Rangers.” It's a distinction Egan shares with his son, Christopher, of commercial real estate and investment company Carruth Capital. Last year, Christopher left the board of the Massachusetts Economic Development Authority in order to make an unsuccessful bid for its chairmanship. His brother Michael, also a Bush “Ranger,” is founder of Carruth. Another brother, John, remains on EMC's board of directors (their mother, Maureen, has also served on the board), and is a general partner at Egan-Managed Capital, a venture capital firm.
You want overachievers? Leslie Epstein, director of Boston University's creative writing program and the author of nine novels (including San Remo Drive , published last year), is the son of Hollywood screenwriter Philip Epstein, who, with twin brother Julius, wrote the scripts for such classic films as Arsenic and Old Lace , Mr. Skeffington, and a popular little trifle called Casablanca . Leslie's son Theo, of course, is general manager of the Red Sox, a job he took at the tender age of 28, making him the youngest general manager in Major League Baseball history. In Theo's spare time, he plays guitar. His twin brother, Paul, is a social worker at Brookline High School. And their sister, Anya, has followed in the family business, writing for the critically acclaimed TV series Homicide: Life on the Street . She's married to Dan Futterman, an actor best known for playing the son of Robin Williams's character in The Birdcage .
A force in Boston real estate since Abraham Beal started it back in 1888, the Beal Companies is still run by the fourth generation of the same family. Brothers Bruce and Robert–today's chairman and president, respectively–have done nothing less than drive the city's real estate industry, from the early 1960s when they created the first condominium complex in Cambridge to the current day; they helped Harvard University acquire the Arsenal on the Charles complex, for example. The Beals have snatched up office and residential buildings from Cambridge to Wakefield and beyond, including the Grain Exchange and Park Square buildings, and turned the skyline-punctuating Custom House into a Marriott time-share property. They also donate time and money to Harvard's Divinity School, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and the New England Aquarium.
Whether or not the odd transformation of his newspaper into the New York Post succeeds, Boston Herald publisher Pat Purcell is no wallflower. Having purged his top editors, he's fighting to beef up circulation by restoring the old “Wingo” game and hiring former Globe columnist Mike Barnicle (No. 5). But Purcell isn't just about the Herald –one of the nation's few remaining locally owned major dailies. His reach extends into the suburbs with the 87 weeklies of his Community Newspaper Company and the Herald 's other major division, Herald Interactive, which includes carfind.com and jobfind.com–and is run by Purcell's daughter Erin. (Son Pat Jr. is an advertising sales rep at the aforementioned New York Post .) Purcell sits on the boards of Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boys & Girls Club; Erin, a hyperkinetic marathon runner, is a member of the Boston Interactive Media Association and other groups. Another Purcell daughter, Kerry, is a Herald writer.
Measured against the Rupert Murdoch or even Martha Stewart archetypes, Ed Ansin makes for a lousy media mogul. Even as his WHDH-TV, Channel 7, has dominated the ratings and remade local broadcast news with its tabloid sensibility and flashy packaging, the notoriously reserved Worcester native has remained an understated presence, preferring to make a statement with his estimated $950 million fortune–not by spending it extravagantly, but by giving some of it away (though not, as they will gripe, to his employees, who complain about comparatively low salaries). He's handed $1 million to Emerson for a new home for its student radio station, for example, donated another million to the United Way, and given $2.6 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. Ansin went in on the last two contributions with his brother, Ron, an ex-footwear magnate and former state commerce commissioner, who is also a major benefactor to civic and cultural organizations. Ron's four children have followed his philanthropic lead. Even one of his grandsons, 16-year-old Ryan, sits on the boards of two nonprofits, the Boys & Girls Club in Leominster and a community skate park in Fitchburg.
Not many pairs of brothers have served on the board of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. John and Paul Drew have. Paul is an executive vice president of the Boston Medical Center; John developed and runs the Seaport World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel, both in collaboration with partner Fidelity Investments. Now his privately held company is teaming up with Urban Retail Properties to develop Waterside Place, a $400 million Copley Place-style complex at the heart of that neighborhood, with condominiums, a hotel, and stores–possibly to include Nordstrom, with which Urban is in talks. John Drew also chairs the board of Caritas Christi Health Care and serves as president of the powerful Artery Business Committee. His business is all in the family, too: Son John P. serves as his father's managing director while daughter Maureen heads up ResourcePlus and Event Management International, one of the divisions of his holding company.
Brothers Robert and David Epstein and their brother-in-law, John Svenson, together run the Abbey Group, whose portfolio includes not only some 100 commercial, retail, and residential buildings–Landmark Center in the Fenway, Lafayette Corporate Center in Downtown Crossing, a planned 18-story office tower on Province Street, another proposed office building slated to go next to Fenway Park–but also a big stake in the Celtics. The family also has close ties with City Hall, which picked it to convert four former public school buildings into high-end retail space and condominiums (the brothers are also reportedly interested in buying the Hynes Convention Center if it's put up for sale), and with important local civic and cultural organizations. Between them, the Epsteins serve on the boards of the Wang Center, the Huntington Theatre Company, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis, and the Anti-Defamation League, and their company is a corporate sponsor of the Symphony and the Museum of Fine Arts.
Though neither of then are actually back-to-the- Mayflower Brahmins, Smoki Bacon and husband Dick Concannon are held up as the epitome of the Brahmin ethic. Event planners and fixtures of the Back Bay-Beacon Hill social scene, they are also prodigious supporters of the arts and together cohost a cable show about local authors. Following in their footsteps is Bacon's daughter, tax attorney Hilary Bacon Gabrieli, and her husband, Chris Gabrieli, the wealthy venture capitalist who ran for lieutenant governor on the ticket with Shannon O'Brien. Chris Gabrieli, who sits on about a half dozen civic boards, has been touted as a prospective gubernatorial candidate in 2006. He'll get plenty of political exposure this summer as head of marketing for the Democratic National Convention's host committee.
George Hatsopoulos founded Thermo Electron, the $2 billion Waltham company that sells sophisticated laboratory equipment. Now he runs an investment firm called Pharos, which has backed two medical device startups, and owns Levitronix, a Waltham company that develops high-end pumps used in hospitals and the semiconductor industry. During the economic downturn, his daughter, Marina, was busy building one of the state's fastest-growing tech companies, Burlington-based Z Corporation, which makes 3-D printers that spit out three-dimensional plaster models of objects designed on a computer. Companies including Ford, Fisher-Price, and Motorola use these printers to create prototypes of new products. Marina also serves on a committee to support the Gillette Center for Women's Cancers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. George's brother John, who cofounded Thermo Electron with him, now runs a leveraged buyout fund and a Waltham company called American Distributed Generation, which sells equipment for electrical, heating, and cooling services in commercial and industrial facilities.
At an age by which most people have long since retired, Academy of Distinguished Bostonians inductee Helen Bowdoin Spaulding–a direct descendant of James Bowdoin, the second governor of Massachusetts and founder of Bowdoin College–remains a vibrant figure in Boston's social and cultural circles. Her husband, Josiah Spaulding, was one of Massachusetts' leading Republicans (he ran against Ted Kennedy in 1970), but after his death in 1983 she became a Democrat and took to philanthropy, chairing the Boston Foundation and doing work for the New England Aquarium, Massachusetts General Hospital, and other educational and social institutions. Among the boards on which she still serves are those of the Smithsonian and the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, which is named for her late husband. Her son Josiah “Joe” Jr. runs the Wang Center for the Performing Arts, and while he has sparked controversy over the size of his salary and his decision to evict the Boston Ballet's Nutcracker , Spaulding's Wang Center remains one of the city's most important cultural venues–even in the face of the assault of national megamonopoly Clear Channel. His brother, Alexander “Sandy” Spaulding, former finance chief of the state Republican Party, is president of Hinckley Yachts and a partner in the controversial plan to build a resort village at Mount Greylock in western Massachusetts. (Not all the Spauldings may be a chip off the old block: Joe Spaulding's son, Josiah A. Spaulding III, has pleaded not guilty to charges on two counts each of civil rights violations, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and other charges in connection with an alleged attack with a metal baton on two black girls in the Downtown Crossing subway station.)
The La Cameras
Paul and Mimi La Camera derive much of their pull from their deep local roots. The son of longtime Boston Record American TV critic Anthony La Camera, Paul La Camera is president and general manager of WCVB-TV, Channel 5 (with which this magazine has a broadcast partnership), and sits on the boards of both Catholic Charities and the Boston Public Library Foundation; he gets to use his powerful TV pulpit to editorialize, which he does unfailingly about important local topics. Wife Mimi La Camera heads up visitor marketing for the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, with a $2 million annual budget and a staff of 26. She's on the boards of the Freedom Trail Foundation and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy. And even if their son Chris sells ads for the Yankees' YES Network, at least son Peter is a pulmonary fellow at Mass General and son Mark is a VP on the NASDAQ desk at Credit Suisse First Boston.
Brothers Melvin and John “Jack” Miller founded the weekly Bay State Banner in 1965. Nearly 40 years later, the Millers continue to own and run the influential Banner , New England's oldest surviving black newspaper. This is very much a family business: Melvin is publisher and editor; Jack is associate publisher and treasurer; Melvin's wife, Sandra Casagrand, is a vice president; and Jack's son, Yawu Miller, is managing editor. An attorney, Melvin Miller owned a slice of WHDH-TV, Channel 7, until it was sold in 1993 for $215 million, and was once called the wealthiest black person in Massachusetts. He sits on the boards of Boston University, the Boston Medical Center, the Huntington Theatre Company, and MassINC.