For more than a decade Orr and Eagleson were practically inseparable—financially and socially. Eagleson was a 30-year-old lawyer and legislator when Doug Orr approached him about representing Orr's 15-year-old son, Bobby. Eagleson had never met Bobby, and he had only dabbled in hockey, but by the time Orr was old enough to play in the NHL, Eagleson had realized what a valuable ticket Orr would be and became his representative. Introducing the art of belligerent negotiating to the NHL, Eagleson won Orr an unprecedented two-year $75,000 contract from the Bruins. When news of Orr's salary got around the league, other players came flocking to Eagleson for counsel. Orr became the Eagleson empire's prime asset. Later, Eagleson would boast that tour-bus guides referred to his large house in the old-rich Toronto district of Rosedale as "the house that Bobby Orr built."
Eagleson incorporated Bobby Orr Enterprises Ltd. and acted as a director of the company. As Orr's salary with the Bruins rose and his endorsement value in the U.S. and Canada grew at an even greater rate, the Eagleson-Orr partnership reaped huge profits and paved the way for the establishment of more Eagleson companies, as Orr allowed Eagleson to use his name and money almost any way Eagleson saw fit. Orr became a prime spokesman for Standard Brands, the international food concern that merged with Nabisco and is run by Eagleson's friend F. Ross Johnson. The Orr-Walton Sports Camp was another lucrative enterprise, and it provided the bonus of introducing prominent junior hockey players to the Eagleson fold. When Eagleson was organizing the first U.S.S.R.-Canada series in 1972 and couldn't get the price he wanted for the television rights, he created an instant company called Ballard-Orr enterprises and sold it the TV rights for $750,000. Only some time later did Eagleson get around to informing Orr that he and Ballard were TV executives. (But not for long. Eagleson arranged for Ballard-Orr to transfer those rights to Harnett, who generated almost $2.2 million in advertising revenue.)
In 1976, Orr became a free agent and Eagleson got him a five-year, $3 million deal with Wirtz' team, the Black Hawks. In November 1978, unable to play any longer because of his crippled knees, Orr retired. Although his Black Hawk deal "guaranteed" him $1.5 million, Orr ended up collecting less than $1 million from the Chicago club—and that after protracted litigation.
Today, while Eagleson is a millionaire many times over, Orr does promotional work for Standard Brands, works for a Boston printing house and owns a small travel agency. Hit with a bill for back Canadian taxes in 1980, he spent more than $500,000 to settle the matter. Orr admits that he was totally naive to the ways of business during his career and placed all his faith in Eagleson. After a-bitter separation proceeding in 1980, Orr signed away his share of the Eagleson-Orr assets for a reported $2.4 million, and after paying the tax man, legal fees and settling debts—including a $100,000 promissory note to Harnett he claims he never knew about—he came away with virtually nothing. Also, at Eagle-son's insistence, Orr signed an agreement saying Eagleson had handled his affairs properly and pledging not to publicly discuss their past relationship.
Eagleson says of his relationship with Orr, "Orr co-signed every check. He-alone signed the promissory note [to Harnett] and it was explained to him.... I have no bitterness toward Bobby Orr."
Nedomansky first became associated with Eagleson shortly after he decided to defect from Czechoslovakia. In 1976 Eagleson, who was authorized to manage Nedomansky's affairs, invested some of Nedomansky's money in a mortgage held partly by Nanjill Investments Ltd. Nedomansky says he didn't learn until later that Eagleson and his wife, Nancy, were directors of Nanjill ("Nan" is for Nancy; "jill" is for the Eaglesons' daughter). After Nedomansky spent three years with the Toronto Toros and Birmingham Bulls of the WHA, Eagleson in 1977 negotiated a two-year, $154,500 contract for him with the Detroit Red Wings. What happened after that is currently being argued in a million-dollar-plus negligence and breach of contract trial. Evidence has been presented that in 1979 Eagleson's then assistant, Bill Watters, reached an agreement with the Red Wings on a contract that would have assured Nedomansky "long-term security," paying him a guaranteed $1.25 million over five years (plus an option year) and an additional $750,000 for front-office duties over the next 10 years. Nedomansky and others testified that on the eve of the formal signing, Eagleson flew to Detroit and announced the agreement at a press conference, but the deal was never completed. Consequently Nedomansky played the entire 1979-80 season without a contract—on Eagleson's advice, he claims.
Nedomansky further charges that in 1980 Eagleson negotiated a new contract with Detroit that was to pay him $1.4 million over four years (plus an option year), but that this contract contained a "buy-out" clause which would allow the Red Wings to end their obligation at any time by paying Nedomansky 60% of the total money owed. Nedomansky claims he suffered "mental anguish" over the ordeal. He also believes that Eagleson should have taken special care, in light of Nedomansky's unfamiliarity with the English language and with the ways of Canadian and American business, and says that the shorter-term contract allowed Eagleson to take a higher and more immediate commission. In 1982, the Red Wings exercised their buy-out option on Nedomansky's final two years, paying him $345,000. Nedomansky is now unemployed.
Eagleson has filed a countersuit against Nedomansky for fees allegedly owed him by his former client.
Eagleson's relationships with friends such as Bradshaw, Harnett and others have raised continuing questions about the propriety of Eagleson's dealings while he deftly changes his many hats. Harnett, for instance, a onetime radio station news director in Toronto, is known to be one of Eagleson's closest allies, dating from Eagleson's earliest political days. People who have worked for and with Eagleson for years have formed the impression that Eagleson controls Harnett's business. Eagleson insists that his relationship with Harnett is limited to that of "solicitor [lawyer] and adviser and friend."
Harnett was certainly in the right place to cash in when the Eagleson-engineered international hockey bonanza began in 1972. Eagleson, through his law firm, set up Team Canada Productions Ltd., with Harnett as its president, and a week later established Arthur Harnett Enterprises Ltd. Team Canada Productions handled the advertising and broadcast rights for the '72 U.S.S.R.-Canada series; Arthur Harnett Enterprises acted as agent for T.C. Productions. Later, Arthur Harnett Enterprises became Harcom Consultants Ltd. Then another company, Harcom Stadium Advertising, was incorporated by Alan Eagleson, Q.C. (Queen's Counsel). One or another of those companies either bought or brokered the television and advertising rights to subsequent Canada Cups and other important international hockey events, as well as the billboard advertising sales rights at Exhibition Stadium, home of the baseball Blue Jays and CFL Argonauts.