In the salt-and-pepper-carpeted, walnut-paneled, fiberglass-draped conference room of the law offices of Wyatt, Grafton & Sloss in Louisville, the meeting came to order—all business. Along the sides of the glossy, oblong table sat half a dozen captains of Kentucky industry—tobacco, whisky, horses, communications, transportation and banking—and at one end sat an attorney noted for his agility in the conundrums of tax law. An outsider stumbling in might have thought it the board meeting of any corporation tussling with its problems of management. He might, except for that anomaly shedding an irradiative light at the head of the table: a pecan-brown young Negro, the heir apparent to the throne of heavyweight boxing, The Louisville Lip, Mr. Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. Why, of course. All in the world that was going on was a split of the spoils from Clay's third-round knockout of Charley Powell in Pittsburgh just days before. And the division was the mighty simple matter of dividing by two: half of the winner's share for Cassius (or $7,165.75 before taxes), half for his 11 sponsors, those six prosperous-looking businessmen pulled up to the table and their five absent partners. Once this had been attended to, a few more matters were discussed, and presently everyone pushed back his chair and the meeting broke up in handshakes all around. They will not collect again on such a formal basis until sometime later this month. Then, it is fervently hoped by each, they will take their respective cuts of the winner's share of a Cassius Clay-Doug Jones fight scheduled for March 13 in New York City.
In a time when prizefighting is dominated by unh-hunh boxers and is beclouded by underworld shenanigans, misappropriated funds, government investigation and a generally sorrowful malaise, Cassius Clay and his backers are a unique and uplifting sight. Clay's fists and his big mouth are making the gates, and the 11 men are making a kind of boxing history. (Speaking of Clay's boastful talk, one of the 11 says, "We may find it exasperating, but not when we count the receipts.") Representative of an almost complete cross section of Louisville business, the backers are, with one exception, millionaires or heirs to family fortunes, and they are so innocent of any background in professional boxing that when you say "uppercut" they think first of their income taxes. Yet they are giving boxing a fresh look. They have provided Clay an ideal, all-expenses-paid training program, they offer him the benefit of all their experience and business acumen, and they surround him with a substantial moral and ethical environment, a rare commodity in professional boxing. And since they are independently wealthy Clay is assured that he will never end up exploited and broke through any fault of theirs. By setting such an example the syndicate is encouraging other businessmen elsewhere to get behind boxing the way they have been behind baseball and professional football for years.
Legally syndicated and loosely interlocked by family, business, religion, horses and acquaintance, the 11 men call themselves The Louisville Sponsoring Group ("Please, try to avoid saying syndicate," says one member, shuddering), and taken one by one they constitute an interesting mixture of riches, position and personality.
William Faversham Jr., 57, is a large-sized, gravelly-voiced, stentorian man who, because he has a sports-page familiarity with boxing and because the idea of the syndicate was his in the first place, is Clay's manager of record. He is the glue that binds the syndicate to Clay and to Clay's trainer, Angelo Dundee.
An ex-actor, who sometimes reveals his past in histrionic mannerisms, Bill Faversham is the son of William Faversham, an English-born actor who made a prominent name on the American stage in the first quarter of this century. Young Bill was sent to the best schools (St. Bernard's, Groton) and eventually enrolled in Harvard. "But after my freshman year Dad had spent all his money, and I dropped out, giving up an ambition to become a writer," says Bill Faversham. Instead, in 1926 he joined a theatrical company in Boston, later was a leading man for six months on Broadway. To keep himself in shape he regularly worked out at Philadelphia Jack O'Brien's gymnasium in New York, sometimes sparred with a fellow named Spencer Tracy. "Then," says Faversham, "I gave up acting for good and went into the investment counseling business—in the summer of 1929, for heaven's sake." (Faversham's brother Philip is still an actor and can be seen on TV gunning ducks for Lucky Strike and suffering indescribable miseries before Dristan goes to work and decongests his eight sinus cavities.)
At the end of World War II Faversham found himself stationed in Louisville, a full colonel in the Air Force and a social friend of the town's influentials. Directly, his contacts paid off with a job at Brown-Forman Distillers Corp., makers of such esteemed pain relievers as Old Forester, Early Times and Jack Daniel's, and today William Faversham is vice-president in charge of sales in 18 states, certainly well off but not a millionaire.
Faversham's boss in all matters save the care and feeding of Cassius Clay is WILLIAM LEE LYONS BROWN, 56, chairman of the board of Brown-Forman. Brown is a bearish, courtly man of pronounced southern charm and manner ("Ah wonder if you realize," he once said, "that Cassius Clay's aunt cooks for my double-first cousin?"), and the handwriting found on a bottle of Old Forester bourbon, "There is nothing better in the market," was penned by Brown's grandfather, George Garvin Brown.
Lyons Brown was educated at Kentucky Military Institute and won an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. At Annapolis he 1) was a heavyweight on the plebe boxing team, 2) severely injured his right leg in a coaling accident aboard the old battleship
and 3) after two years flunked out. He transferred to the University of Virginia, flunked again and joined his family's distillery as a board director and secretary. Nowadays Brown winters in Delray Beach, Fla., where he keeps a deep-sea fishing boat and a standby crew, and he busies himself with other business ventures from oil to cattle. Brown is a nephew of W. L. Lyons, who runs a stock-and-bond firm in Louisville.
A partner in that same firm is JAMES Ross TODD. He's apple-cheeked and 26 and, as such, is the youngest member of the group (yet one of the richest). Ross Todd, unmarried, lives with his parents in a huge, granite-block Palladian mausoleum of a house called Rostrevor after Great-great-grandfather's home town in Ireland. A painting of Major General Sir Patrick Ross, a 19th-century warrior and a "great-great-something-or-other," hangs above the living-room mantle, hand on sword.
A descendant of old-line Kentucky affluence, Ross Todd is the only child of Jouett Ross Todd, an attorney. Ross says his folks made their money "wheeling and dealing." Jouett Todd is prominent, too, in Republican politics in Kentucky (the Prince of Nassau, the backroom boys call him behind his back, because of his habit of vacationing in the Bahamas). Ross is a fledgling wheeler-dealer himself, who became mixed up with Cassius Clay "because Daddy had enough on his mind without getting involved with prizefighting."