Boston 2024 Was Heavily Influenced by Super Wealthy, All-White Shadow Group

The secretive Massachusetts Competitive Partnership wields an extraordinary amount of sway over the city's affairs, including its doomed Olympic bid.

Photo via AP

Massachusetts Competitive Partnership Chief Executive Dan O’Connell / Photo via AP

In postmortems printed both here and elsewhere, the hamartia plaguing the bid to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston has been pinpointed as either an unwillingness or outright failure to meaningfully embrace public input, and instead charted its Hindenburg trajectory in back rooms like the one that begins Jon Chesto’s piece in Tuesday’s Globe on the secretive, all-white, nearly all-male organization steering state affairs to its well-heeled whim.

That back room, located 13 stories above Boylston Street, belongs to the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, whose membership boasts the state’s most powerful business elites: Suffolk Construction head and one-time Boston 2024 chairman John Fish, Vertex Pharmaceuticals CEO Jeffrey Leiden, and Hill Holiday cofounder Jack Connors, to name a few.

The crux of the piece is whether the MACP, dubbed the “New Vault,” can wield the same power as the original Vault, a group of 25 titans of industry who met in the basement vault of the Boston Safe Deposit & Trust Co. The group, launched in 1959 and disbanded in 1997, was so powerful, it was “considered a shadow government,” Chesto writes. In one episode included in a 2010 Globe story, the Vault persuaded newly elected Boston Mayor John Collins to hire Ed Logue as Boston Redevelopment Authority commissioner. Within a few years, residents of Barry’s Corner in Lower Allston found themselves embroiled in a bitter battle with Logue’s BRA, who wished to use its urban renewal power to make way for luxury apartments.

Though the New Vault has coordinated several successes, Boston 2024 caused a schism. Fish floated the idea, and Putnam Investments CEO Bob Reynolds, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and MCA chief executive Dan O’Connell were immediately onboard. The MACP’s members failed to reach a consensus, so Fish and O’Connell set off to chase the United States Olympic Committee’s nomination on their own.

Still, Boston 2024 had the MACP’s fingerprints all over it. Connors signed on as a senior adviser as part of the bid’s late-game leadership shake-up,  and Hill Holliday, whose CEO Karen Kaplan served on the bid’s Executive Committee, provided its services. Listed among Boston 2024’s sponsors were Bank of America, EMC, Mass Mutual, Raytheon, State Street, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals—all companies whose executives, either past or present, are members of the New Vault’s leadership.

Last June, O’Connell invited Boston magazine into MACP’s offices to explain why several portions of the bid book submitted to the USOC, including a passage about a public authority covering land acquisition costs, were redacted from the version provided to the public. (O’Connell served as Boston 2024’s president and CEO during the first bid book’s compilation.) The short answer: an advantage at the negotiating table, to avoid any pesky holdouts.

“The fear was, we had this group of private landowners [in Widett Circle, proposed site of the Olympic Stadium], the co-op, and what if one of them—they all have to be unanimous to sell the property—what if one of them holds out and says, ‘I’m not going until a Rolls Royce is delivered to my front door?'” O’Connell said. “Then eminent domain power in a public authority would allow you to take it for fair market value.”

Though Mayor Marty Walsh publicly vowed never to use eminent domain for the construction of Olympic venues, and O’Connell admitted it was no longer on the table, it was included in Bid 1.0, which Walsh signed.

Perhaps the New Vault is more like the Old Vault than it’d like to admit.