Charlie Jacobs Backstory

1196347182This month’s issue of Boston magazine includes a profile I wrote on Charlie Jacobs, the Bruins executive vice president and the youngest son of team owner Jeremy Jacobs. It’s out on news stands now, and you can also read it here. But because they occurred too late in the process, there are a few noteworthy things that you won’t find in the story.

During my reporting, I sat down with Charlie several times, spoke to his current and former employees, and watched him address both the fans and the media. As the weeks went by, Jacobs’s apprehension about the piece appeared only to grow. The day after the story went to press, a lawyer retained by Jacobs sent us a letter inquiring about some of the sources for the article.

The most unusual turn of events from a journalist’s perspective, though, came the day before deadline. That’s when Wendy Watkins, a marketing executive from Delaware North — the company that oversees the Bruins and all of the various other Jacobs family business concerns — called one of the magazine’s sales reps to ask whether or not the story about Jacobs was going to be “positive.”

If so, Watkins said, the Bruins might be interested in buying a series of ads. If not, however, the deal would be unlikely.

Our editorial and advertising departments maintain a strict “church and state” separation. Still, something like this is going to get around. When I caught word of Watkins’s inquiry, I called Charlie Jacobs and asked whether he knew anything about it. He told me he’d have someone get back to me. Watkins contacted me soon after. She said she typically makes such calls whenever one of the company’s 40,000 employees is going to be written about. Watkins insisted that the offer to advertise with the magazine was not an attempt to influence the story. Then she added:

“If somebody gets hatcheted by a publication,” she said, “are they more likely to enter into a long-term partnership with them? That’s just the realities of the business.”

You can make of Watkins’ comment what you will. As for whether I’ve provided a fair portrayal of Jacobs in the profile, I’ll let you read it and decide for yourselves.

PHOTO by John Goodman for Boston magazine