By 1961 the Murchisons had doubled their original grubstake and, as nearly as anyone can tot up the value of interests in some 100 companies scattered throughout the U.S., they were worth $150 million and owned or directed enterprises worth well over $1 billion. They did not belong to that breed of financiers called company raiders and, in fact, they never have even mastered Old Clint's technique of luring people to them to ask for a deal they wanted all the time. They considered themselves progressive but sound businessmen, and there had not been a bit of scandal about their dealings. For this reason they were shocked, embarrassed and hopping with indignation when in 1960 they both were booted off the board of Investors Diversified Services, a financing corporation in which they had invested $40 million. The action was taken after an investigator for Alleghany Corp., the vast and powerful holding company that controls IDS, charged that they were using their places on the board to win special treatment in floating loans to finance their own projects. Although a special IDS investigating committee later reported that there was no basis for the charge, the brothers were not pacified; their honor had been impugned and a $40 million investment was threatened. As grimly as two vaqueros setting out on a blood feud, they mounted jets and rode up to New York and launched a proxy battle to seize control of Alleghany Corp. Their chief target was Allan P. Kirby, the 68-year-old head of Alleghany, an heir to the Woolworth fortune and one of the richest men in Wall Street. What followed was the biggest, bitterest, costliest and most publicized proxy battle in history and, when the skirmish was over, the brothers had gained control of Alleghany by an overwhelming vote, though they recently sold a large piece of their Alleghany holdings at a Texas-size (estimated $7 million) loss, making it far from clear who had won the war.
After their audacious foray into Wall Street, it was confidently predicted that the brothers would take it easy for a long time, consolidate their position and avoid controversy. They might have done so, except that even before the Alleghany fight started, Clint Jr. had laid the groundwork for another record-breaking brawl. To understand the circumstances, it should be known that over the years, from Old Clint and on their own, the brothers had acquired a prime selection of what might loosely be described as sports investments:
Field & Stream
magazine; a fishing tackle company; Daisy Manufacturing Co., makers of the famed air guns; Vail Mountain Ski Lodge; several country clubs and golf courses, including The Racquet Club in Palm Springs; and even a piece of the Daytona Speedway.
In addition, for as long as he can remember, Clint Jr. has been a genuine long-johns, freezing-hands-in-pockets, blue-face-in-north-wind football nut. He coached a YMCA little league football team for a few years, and as far back as 1952 he tried to buy the ailing Dallas Texans to keep them in his home town, but the late Bert Bell already had promised the franchise to Baltimore. Later on, Clint Jr. came within a whisper of closing a deal for the Washington Redskins, but George Preston Marshall demanded a 10-year management clause and soured it. An effort to get the San Francisco 49ers was equally unsuccessful.
Clint Jr. finally got his chance to acquire a pro team in 1959 when the NFL expanded and granted franchises to Dallas and Minnesota. At the time, however, few people realized the role he played in the birth of the Dallas Cowboys. He remained in the background and apparently even left some acquaintances with the impression that he was a reluctant investor. Bedford Wynne, a Dallas lawyer and member of Dallas' gold-plated Wynne tribe, was spokesman for the club, and it generally was believed that he was the prime mover in landing the franchise. Actually, the Cowboys were Clint Jr.'s baby from the start; he lined up the investors, negotiated the contracts and put up 65% of the money. He wanted Texas E. Schramm, the general manager of the Rams, to run the club, and he got him. He wanted Tom Landry as head coach, and he hired him away from the Giants.
But nothing is done by halves in Texas, and when pro football came back to Dallas it came back with a double-barreled bang. At the same time Clint Jr. was getting his team, Lamar Hunt, 10 years younger and the personable and popular son of Oil Millionaire H. L. Hunt (who is even richer than the Murchisons), was helping organize the AFL and, along with it, another home-town team, the Dallas Texans. Since both Clint Jr. and Lamar wanted a team, many people wondered why they didn't simplify matters by getting together and organizing a single club for Dallas. The principal reason was that Lamar was involved with an entire league, not just a team; he couldn't get out, and Clint Jr. had no desire at all to be involved in founding the AFL.
From the start it was clear that Dallas was not big enough to support, or peacefully hold, two teams. Still, although they clashed constantly over recruiting, the early rivalry was not too acrimonious. On one occasion, for example, Clint Jr. appeared at a Texan luncheon wearing a bright red Texan blazer, and Lamar once jumped out of a large cake wheeled into a Murchison party.
But now the nerves and the checkbooks are beginning to fray. The Texans, operating with much promotional razzle-dazzle—players once kicked 70 footballs into the stands—have an AFL championship team to boast of. Murchison's Cowboys, going about their business almost sedately, have an adequate National Football League team, and the reputation of that league behind them. The result is a millionaires' standoff.
Currently, the most popular suggestion is that the teams play each other, and the loser (or winner) leave town. Some civic leaders have expressed dismay because they claim the battle is dividing the loyalties of a city that has always been united. The Lions Club and the Jaycees, for example, publicly are supporting the Texans, while the more powerful Salesmanship Club has sided with the Cowboys. A note of class consciousness has also crept into the struggle: it is claimed that the more socially prominent people support the Cowboys because the Murchisons and Wynnes are more "social" than the Hunts.
After three seasons each team is drawing about 22,000 a game. Since a team needs an average attendance of 30,000 per game to make money, it does not take Clint Jr.'s computerlike brain to figure out that Dallas essentially is a rousing good football town but one team must go if the other is to be a success.
As long as the neck-and-neck stalemate continues, it seems unlikely that money alone will determine the winner, for in Lamar Hunt, Clint Jr. has encountered one of only a handful of people in the U.S. who can continue to match him dollar for dollar forever. There is a story, possibly true, that a friend telephoned old H. L. Hunt and warned him that Lamar stood a good chance of losing a lot of money on the Texans.