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The Eleven Men Behind Cassius Clay
Huston Horn
March 11, 1963
Innocent of prizefighting's bad old ways, these gentlemen hope by their example to put an end to the exploiting of boxers. They expect Clay to get rich—and to get a little bit richer themselves
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March 11, 1963

The Eleven Men Behind Cassius Clay

Innocent of prizefighting's bad old ways, these gentlemen hope by their example to put an end to the exploiting of boxers. They expect Clay to get rich—and to get a little bit richer themselves

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"Well," says Faversham, picking up the thread, "the first thing I did that night was to call Pat Calhoun and Bill Cutchins." Calhoun got up from dinner, Cutchins turned off Naked City and an hour later, in Faversham's living room, the three of them were congratulating one another on the scheme they had just cooked up.

As Faversham saw it then, it would take about $25,000 to launch Clay—allowing for a $10,000 bonus to get him to sign with them. (It actually took just under $20,000 the first year.) Thus, Faversham felt, they ought to have at least two more members to spread the burden to $5,000 apiece.

"Finding more was never the problem," says Faversham. "I called Vert Smith, another dear friend, right away. 'Vert,' I said, 'how are you and how would you like to buy a piece of a prizefighter?' Vert heard me out and said maybe so but only on one condition: we had to ring Lyons Brown in, too. Vert said Brown was just naturally lucky, and with him a member the syndicate couldn't go wrong. So the next morning I went to my boss and put the idea to him. He said fine, and we were five."

That same evening, however, Elbert Sutcliffe dropped by Lyons Brown's house for a drink. Faster than you can knock out Floyd Patterson, the syndicate was six. "What the hell?" Faversham says he said on hearing that, "let's go to 10." Pat Calhoun called his horse-breeder friend Warner Jones, and Jones passed to his son-in-law, George Norton IV. Norton cornered Worth Bingham at a cocktail party, somebody else saw Jouett Todd, who turned the whole preposterous idea over to his son Ross, and Lyons Brown, an evangelist by now, got in touch with his Delray-Beach-and-oil-well buddy, Stets Coleman. With the exception of Archie Foster, who joined later to make 11, the job was done. About all that remained was to let Cassius Clay in on things. "I did that," says Faversham, "right here in my living room. The whole family dropped over for a talk, and we hit it off fine."

Now that the syndicate had a fighter and a pool of money (all but Faversham were asked to contribute $2,800; as a reward for organizing everything, he got a free half share), it needed a contract. The best place to find one of those, it decided, was to get in touch with Gordon Byron Davidson, Billy Reynolds' attorney, who was mentioned in the news story Faversham had seen. "I got a call from Calhoun," says Davidson (who is, as you might expect by now, descended from George Gordon, Lord Byron), "and I said, 'Why sure, come on down.' After all, I had already drawn up a pretty good contract for Billy Reynolds, one of our clients, and 1 was perfectly willing to sell it a second time."

The contract Davidson drew up and the principals signed gave Cassius the $10,000 bonus, a guaranteed minimum annual salary of $4,000 for two years and $6,000 for four years. Everything Clay earns, whether in the ring or in, say, personal appearances (he got $500 for playing himself for one minute in the movie Requiem for a Heavyweight), is split 50-50 with the syndicate. Some of Clay's cut goes automatically into a trust fund in his name, and the syndicate pays all of Clay's expenses when he is in training out of its cut. ("Expenses" translates to mean everything from $125 a week for Angelo Dundee to the rent for a three-bedroom house in Miami the syndicate is providing for Clay and his family this winter and spring.) The syndicate has the option to renew the contract each year, and in October 1967, when it expires, the syndicate has first refusal should somebody offer Clay a more lucrative arrangement.

"That," says Davidson, "would be hard to imagine. If there is one thing these men are not, it is stingy. Expenses last year, for instance, came to $27,000, or more than half of the syndicate's share of Clay's purses. Cassius—he goes first class." ("The public thinks we've made a lot of money, and Cassius thinks we've made a lot of money," says Vert Smith. "The fact is, each of us is still about $1,000 in the hole.")

But just to make the contract even more attractive to Cassius—with regard to taxes, anyway—Davidson is currently drawing up a revision. Under the new terms Clay, who earned $45,000 last year and thus found himself in the uncomfortable clutches of the 62% income-tax bracket, would become a salaried employee of the syndicate. Instead of receiving his 50% after every fight, he would get a guaranteed monthly salary taken from his purses plus a year-end bonus based on his earnings. After he has quit righting (or reached 35) he will continue to draw a roughly equivalent salary for a number of years. "The effect," says Davidson, "is to make his high-earning years pump up the low-earning years and to keep him out of the upper tax brackets. Cassius hates taxes like poison [he asked Senator Ted Kennedy this winter to express his dissatisfaction to the head man], and if he wants to accept this new contract I figure he can keep almost twice as much of his earnings as he can under present conditions. The syndicate's financial picture won't change, no matter what Cassius decides, but of course you couldn't find a group more sympathetic to the hurt of high taxes than these millionaires."

The group is sympathetic, too, to protecting its $28,000 investment. Accordingly, it holds a $30,000 insurance policy on Clay's life and a $300,000 accident policy on him. Considering the fact that Clay has already been arrested twice for fast-driving his pink Cadillac (he likes to shadow-box an imaginary Sonny Liston while behind the wheel), nobody, except possibly the insurance company, feels the policies were a mistake.

Such matters as these, however, are left largely to Davidson and the group's executive committee—Faversham, Calhoun, Smith, Cutchins and Norton—and, indeed, the syndicate has never been able to assemble at full strength.

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