Continuing our series of Celtics related excerpts from David Halberstam's "The Breaks of the Game," we take a look at why the Celtics had a revolving door of ownership. You would think that one of the greatest organizations in sports, not just basketball, would have a short ledger of ownership throughout the years. The LA Lakers, their chief rivals, had Jack Kent Cooke in their early years in Los Angeles from the 1960's until the late 1970's. Then, the team was purchased by Jerry Buss and his family has owned it to this day. That has not been the case for the Celtics.
Beginning with the original owner Walter Brown (1946-1964), they've had roughly twelve different ownership groups in the same time frame that the Lakers have had (some of these groups bought out their partner to take more of a majority share). After the jump, we can see the full list of owners as well as delve into Halberstam's thoughts as to why this happened with the green.
Here is the full list of Celtics owners (taken from Wikipedia):
- Walter A. Brown, team founder and original owner (1946–September 7, 1964)
- Lou Pieri and Marjorie Brown, wife of team founder (September 7, 1964– June 24, 1965)
- Marvin Kratter/Knickerbocker Brewing Company, subsidiary of National Equities (June 24, 1965–1968)
- Ballantine Brewery, subsidiary of Investors Funding Corporation (1968–1969)
- Trans-National Communications (1969–1971)
- Ballantine Brewery, subsidiary of Investors Funding Corporation (1971–1972)
- Irv Levin and Harold Lipton (April 1972-May 1972) Sale not approved by NBA
- Robert Schmertz/Leisure Technology (May 1972–January 1975)
- Robert Schmertz/Leisure Technology, Irv Levin, and Harold Lipton (January 1975–November 1975)
- Irv Levin and Harold Lipton (November 1975-1978)
- John Y. Brown, Jr. and Harry T. Mangurian, Jr. (1978–1979)
- Harry T. Mangurian, Jr. (1979–1983)
- Don Gaston, Alan N. Cohen, Paul Dupee (1983–1993)
- Paul Gaston (1993–2002)
- Boston Basketball Partners L.L.C. — consisting of Wycliffe Grousbeck, Stephen Pagliuca, H. Irving Grousbeck and The Abbey Group, represented by Robert Epstein.(2002–present).
That's a pretty hefty turnover of ownership for one of the greatest franchises in team sports. Jumping to pages 258-259 in Halberstam's book, we can see why this would happen:
Ahhh yes the 'ol tax break from Uncle Sam. Unfortunately most of the owners didn't view the Celtics in the same regard that Walter Brown did or that Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca seem to now. In fact, the entire Irv Levin and John Y. Brown fiasco could be an entire novel (or Hollywood story) in of itself.
Usually, a successful team both on and off the court/field begins with a strong ownership foundation. It's a big reason why teams like the Patriots, Yankees, Red Sox, Steelers and Lakers have all had sustained runs of solid seasons. This makes it all the more impressive that the Celtics were able to maintain their level of dominance in the 1960's and continued success in each decade until the mid-1990's. Most of this can be attributed to Red Auerbach of course, which is among many reasons why this blog is so fond of him!