“I’ve had enough … If you want to express outrageous opinions, there’s nothing wrong with that. But we’re not talking about opinions here. We’re talking about reporting purported fact.”
— Ed Snider on why he sued WIP, as quoted in Sports Illustrated, March 24, 1997
By Theodore N. Beitchman
Ed Snider cares about facts. And opinions.
He proved that 17 years ago when he sued WIP over its erroneous report that the Flyers’ Eric Lindros had missed a game because he was hung over. Snider won an undisclosed settlement from the station he once owned.
And Snider (photo above) has expressed many opinions about the events leading to his 1967 divorce from Jerry Wolman — in books, interviews and newspaper articles. However, Snider’s version of these events often does not survive basic fact-checking, and suddenly he has gone all taciturn, refusing to answer simple questions.
On October 21, 2010, I emailed Snider’s press attaché, Ike Richman, requesting answers to a series of questions relating to his relationship with Wolman, and within an hour and a half Richman shot back the following communique:
“Snider has issued this statement and will not answer any questions.” To wit:
“Jerry Wolman and I worked very closely together many years ago, and at one time enjoyed a good relationship. Unfortunately, in many partnerships, things don’t always work out and people move on. And that’s what happened with Jerry and me. I’ve moved on and am not interested in rehashing events that may or may not have occurred more than four decades ago. I’m very proud to be spending my time and energy these days running a company that has created thousands and thousands of jobs and has brought happiness and excitement to millions of fans and to be engaged in charitable and civic causes that benefit the community.”
Why has Snider, who has commented on Wolman for years — mostly in uncomplimentary terms as recently as June 2010 — suddenly dummied up?
We checked the facts on everything Wolman told me and they all checked out, right down to whether or not he met with President Kennedy in the Oval Office, verified by archivists at the Kennedy Library. And then we checked five major differences between what Wolman claimed and what Snider claimed.
Wolman was correct on every one. Snider? Not so much.
Snider’s version is detailed in a book, “Full Spectrum,” written by Jay Greenberg, that Snider commissioned in 1997. “Full Spectrum” and “Jerry Wolman, The World’s Richest Man” are both “as told to” sides of the story and were commissioned and paid for by Snider and Wolman, respectively. Neither book contains original reporting on the issues in question here. And neither contains annotation or footnotes or documents that substantiate the versions both present.
So many disagreements, so little space. So let’s examine the major disagreements and nail down the facts:
WHO BOUGHT THE EAGLES IN 1964?
In “Full Spectrum,” in a 2008 interview conducted by the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship, and on the Flyers Alumni web site as recently as November 25, 2010 — Snider leaves the distinct impression Wolman had equity partners when he bought the Eagles.
An excerpt from the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship interview: … toward the end of ’63, my brother-in-law, Earl Foreman, was very friendly with a guy named Jerry Wolman, who heard that the Philadelphia Eagles … might be for sale, and wanted to know if I would go up and see what was going on and work with him … So I went up to Philadelphia and strategically decided what to do to get the team, and we bought the Philadelphia Eagles for $5,555,000. The Eagles are now worth $1 billion.
THE FACTS: As he describes in “Richest Man,” Wolman got the tip from Mo Siegel that the Eagles were for sale (Siegel worked for me at the Washington Star in the 1970s, and he verified this). It was Wolman who drove up to Philly from D. C. and met John Taxin, who got him in to see the team’s managing partner. And it was Wolman — and Wolman alone — who won the bidding for the Eagles in December 1963.
The deal closed in February 1964 — for $5.505 million — and it was then that Wolman hired Foreman and Snider, giving each employee minority shares in the team. As reported by Sports Illustrated’s Bud Shrake in its Sept. 23, 1968, issue, “Morgan Guaranty Trust of New York loaned Wolman $6 million with 100% of the Eagle stock as collateral.”
Wolman agreed to hire Snider as a favor to his good friend, Snider’s dad Sol. Ed Snider was 31 years old at the time, had run only one small business and had no experience in sports.
WAS SNIDER FIRED BY WOLMAN?
In “Full Spectrum,” Snider was at the Flyers’ first game at the Spectrum on Oct. 19, 1967, and was shown a headline from the next day’s Inquirer: “Snider Fired by Wolman in Struggle Over Eagles,” and he responds, “Bullshit I was fired!” When Philadelphia magazine ran an excerpt from Wolman’s book in July 2010, Snider reiterated his claim that Wolman never fired him.
THE FACTS: On Oct. 20, 1967, the Associated Press issued the following dispatch: “PHILADELPHIA, (AP)–A still unexplained dispute between top executives of the Philadelphia Eagles exploded today and resulted in the firing of Ed Snider as vice president of the National Football League club.”
And in Shrake’s article from SI on Sept. 23, 1968: “The Philadelphia franchise earned more than $840,000 in each of the past two years, but the profit vanished in loans to Wolman and severance pay for former vice president Ed Snider, fired with 12 years remaining on his contract.”
If Snider wasn’t fired, why was he collecting severance pay?
WHOSE IDEA WAS THE SPECTRUM AND WHO BUILT IT?
In a June 2009 article in Philadelphia magazine, Snider says, “I was vice president of the Eagles. It was 1966, and I heard that Jack Kent Cooke [owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Redskins] wanted to get a National Hockey League franchise and build an arena in L.A. I had been to a hockey game at the old Boston Garden and thought it was a fabulous sport …. I said, ‘I think Philadelphia would be a great place for a hockey franchise.’ So I … talked to the president of City Council, who was a South Philadelphia resident, about putting an arena on the parking lot where the Vet was going, and increasing revenues for the city. He was very enthusiastic. We went to Mayor Tate, and he said, ‘Let’s make this deal.’ Only 11 months of construction. You can’t do that today. The new building took six years.”
THE FACTS: There is no documentation in “Full Spectrum,” articles from the Bulletin, Inquirer or Daily News that confirm Snider ever met with Tate or City Council president Paul D’Ortona to discuss a new arena.
In an interview with me, Wolman refuted everything about Snider’s version:
“Our group had discussed a new arena, but when we met with the NHL board of governors in February 1966, Snider wasn’t even there. The NHL raised the legitimate question of a 15,000-seat arena and said we would never be ready in time. I assured them we could do it, and the Blackhawks’ Arthur Wirtz stuck up for me because I was building the John Hancock Center in Chicago.
“I hired the architect, Skidmore, Owens and Merrill, the finest firm in the country. My attorneys negotiated the lease with the city. I arranged for a permanent loan from Columbia University through a correspondent (Henry Goldschmidt). I negotiated and hired McCloskey Co. to do the construction and had numerous meetings with Matt McCloskey.
“Snider was never involved in any of this. As a matter of fact at the ground breaking on June 1, 1966, if you look at the picture in “The Richest Man,” Snider is nowhere to be found. It’s just me and Mayor Tate.
“And it took 15 months, not the 11 Snider said it did. I put Bill Putnam in charge because he had experience from the banking end and the construction end; he had honchoed the Forum in L. A. Snider was his assistant.”
Snider was involved in decisions such as the name for the arena, the color scheme, plans for a back-up arena in case the Spectrum was not completed on time, and various other marketing-related issues.
A picture in “Full Spectrum” shows only Tate with a shovel at the groundbreaking. Wolman has been cropped out.
A clip from the Daily News is headlined, “Wolman To Build, Then Give Arena to City.”
Whose idea was it to start the Flyers? Who met with the NHL?
In “Full Spectrum” in 1997, in his 2008 interview the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship and in his Philadelphia magazine response in June 2009, Snider takes full credit for the idea and execution that resulted in the Flyers’ founding in 1966:
“ … I heard, and it wasn’t big news that the National Hockey League was expanding from six teams to twelve … and they had all these cities that were vying for it … and we weren’t even mentioned. So the banker who financed the purchase of the Eagles was with JP Morgan and was leaving. He was in their sports division and he was leaving to go to work for Jack Kent Cooke, who expected to get a franchise in Los Angeles in the National Hockey League … so this guy told me all about the league and what was going on.”
The banker Snider mentions is Bill Putnam. Snider’s hockey interest was piqued when he saw a line for tickets for the last-place Bruins in 1964. Snider claims that he had to hustle to come up with the $2 million franchise fee after Wolman failed to, as he had promised.
THE FACTS: In “The World’s Richest Man,” Wolman describes how Putnam called him from Los Angeles, where he was working for Cooke on starting the Kings and building the Forum, to say that he, Wolman, should bid on a hockey team.
Putnam, whom Wolman had known since the early 1960s when he used Morgan to finance several real estate projects in Washington, was the banker who approved and delivered the $5.5 million check Wolman used to buy the Eagles, when he was still at Morgan Guaranty. Wolman explained that he had no interest in a hockey team but he was interested in buying into the NHL because if Philly were to be a truly first-class sports town it needed hockey.
Wolman, Putnam and Jerry Schiff attended the NHL meeting in February 1966 which resulted in Philly being granted the franchise. If the idea of getting an NHL team for Philly was in fact Snider’s, wouldn’t logic dictate that he attend this crucial meeting?
In “Full Spectrum” Snider allows as how he stayed in Philly so that when the city was granted the franchise he would hustle over to City Hall to tell Mayor Tate and have a celebratory press conference.
“Snider said that he made the presentation to the league,” Wolman said in an interview with me. “He was not even present.
“As for the funds: The $100,000 deposit for the bidding came from me or one of my sources. Same as far as all the expenses during the bidding process. I had raised the money and it was the balance of $1,900,000 that was put up by me.
“When I had to sell [because of my financial situation], part of the deal was that Putnam and Snider had to pay off the $2,000,000 that I had borrowed.
Joe King, Wolman’s business manager in Philly, now living in Bethesda, Md., confirmed in a telephone conversation that the funds for the Flyers’ $2 million franchise fee came from Wolman.
Bill Putnam died in March 2002, and his widow Josie Putnam, now living in Palm City, Fla., in an email to me says: “Bill was a vice president and lending officer of J.P. Morgan when he first met Jerry, who used Morgan when he was purchasing the Eagles. I don’t recall Bill ever mentioning Eddie Snider until we moved to Philadelphia in 1966.
“After Jerry’s financial difficulties, my mother-in-law Katharine Putnam pledged her securities as collateral to raise the necessary funds for Bill and Snider which started the Flyers. I distinctly remember telling her she had guts to do that. If Eddie denies that he is lying.
“Bill put that team together and he never really got the credit he deserved.”
The Bulletin story from Feb. 8, 1966, which points out that Snider “was not present at the talks …” is reprinted here, as is a memo from Jerry and Anne Wolman to Morgan Guaranty Trust which confirms that Wolman funded the Flyers.
WHO PROVIDED THE $83,000 DOWN PAYMENT FOR SNIDER’S HOME ON THE MAIN LINE IN 1964?
In Philadelphia magazine in June 2010, Snider denies that Wolman provided the down payment on his house, but offers that Wolman once tried to pay off his mortgage—a gift, Snider says, he refused. And in “Full Spectrum” Snider says, “Wolman told people that he bought me my house. The truth is, he once tried to pay off my mortgage … when my banker told me what had happened I had him send the money back.”
THE FACTS: Wolman has never claimed he paid off or tried to pay off Snider’s mortgage. In “The World’s Richest Man,” the authors write: “Nothing meant more to Snider than when Wolman gave him a gift of $83,000 for his down payment on a grand new home, after having made arrangements for his mortgage.”
King, Wolman’s business manager in Philly, confirmed by phone that: “I wrote the $83,000 check that Snider used as a down payment, though I am unsure if the check was drawn from Jerry’s Eagles account or his personal account. I suspect it was the personal account.”
The seven-paragraph letter Snider wrote to Wolman, dated Sept. 4, 1964, thanking him for the $83,000 down payment is reprinted here.