One night in late
1959 Lawyer Roy M. Cohn and Travel Agent William D. Fugazy Jr. were sitting in
the Stork Club, which is owned by one of Cohn's clients, Sherman Billingsley.
They were having fun together, as they often did. But their ears pricked up
when, at the next table, they heard a group lamenting the low estate to which
prizefighting had fallen after the first Patterson-Johansson fight at Yankee
Stadium. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and, concurrently, investigative agencies of New
York City and New York State had uncovered a mess involving several varieties
of chicanery and the presence of Mobster Tony (Fats) Salerno in the fight's
promotional background. The bemoaners longed aloud for the return of a
respected promoter like Humbert (Jack) Fugazy, a successful boxing impresario
of the 1920s whose record $461,789 gate for the Berlenbach-Delaney fight in
1926 has never been equaled by light heavyweights. And Jack Fugazy was the
uncle of Bill Fugazy, sitting there alongside Cohn with his ears ablaze with
In no time Cohn
and Bill persuaded Uncle Jack to put them into boxing, a field of investment
play they had not yet discovered. Jack was old but vigorous. Cohn was young,
most widely known for his work as investigative counsel for Senator Joe
McCarthy, but already an impressive wheeler-dealer in corporate finance. Bill
was one of the inheritors of his grandfather's travel bureau, which his mother
The elderly Jack
dusted off his prestige and reputation—no trouble at all in a New York that
still remembered him favorably for many good fights. Jack set up a deal for the
boys to buy the sullied promotional remains of Rosensohn Enterprises, a
corporation that was jointly owned (on paper) by the ill-starred Bill Rosensohn
and Vincent Velella, Tony Salerno's East Harlem lawyer. The corporation had
liabilities from the Patterson-Johansson upset, but it also had a million
dollar asset: first call on the two heavyweights for a return match.
In late October,
Rosensohn and Velella changed the corporate name to Feature Sports and sold
out. Cohn and Bill Fugazy were in business, and took full command. Uncle Jack
became executive director at $300 a week and was promised one-fourth of the
under Cohn and Fugazy, promoted the second and third Patterson-Johansson
fights, which attracted 50,000 paid admissions and grossed $1,315,564 at the
box office alone. But somehow the books of Feature Sports reflected no
commensurate return. Even before taxes, profits were reported as a meager
$181,241.26 on Feature Sports' first promotion, an astonishingly meager
$9,608.11 on the second. Old Jack got little or nothing out of the fights.
In August of 1961
Jack Fugazy decided to sue. He asked $132,173.82 as his promised one-fourth
share of the promotions and contested the profit figures put forth by Cohn and
his nephew Bill. Perhaps by coincidence, Feature Sports became inactive about
Roy Cohn did not.
He organized Championship Sports, Inc., but for reasons never disclosed Bill
Fugazy was not officially recognized as a member of the new corporation.
Instead, Cohn's law partner, Tom Bolan, and Bolan's brothers, Al and Pat,
appeared as minority stockholders. The firm's first promotion was the
Patterson-McNeeley fight last December 4 in Toronto; its second was the
Patterson-Liston fight in Chicago, September 25.
While these two
bouts were being arranged, Jack Fugazy's suit was still pending. Cohn managed
to arrange a series of delays. But Jack wasn't the only one interested in the
accounts of Feature Sports. The U.S. Government was also studying its books.
Those books will be brought into New York Supreme Court this week under
subpoena by Jack Fugazy. What they reveal is startling.
Cohn's law firm—Saxe, Bacon and O'Shea—Jack Fugazy's claim of profits is
groundless and the corporation (Feature Sports) is both penniless and beset by
other suits. Proof of no funds was offered through Laventhol, Krekstein and
Co., a New York accounting firm which prepared a consolidated balance sheet
showing deductions of $76,250.66 for legal fees, $82,440.60 in travel expenses,
$72,926.89 for "gifts and entertainment" and $107,200 for
"administrative salaries." All of these sums were deducted from the
Feature Sports gross of $1,315,564, along with the fighters' pay and incidental
expenses, to produce the low combined profit figure of $190,841.37.
Most of the summer
just past was required to get behind these figures. If the account books are
displayed in court they will show that the legal fees were paid to Saxe, Bacon
and O'Shea; the travel expense money went to Bill Fugazy's travel bureau; and
the administrative salaries were paid largely to Cohn and Bill. (For example,
each drew $2,000 a week "salary" for one period of 13 weeks.)