-Caveat Lector-

an excerpt from:
Dan E. Moldea©1989
William Morrow and Company, Inc.
New York, NY
ISBN 0-688-08303-X

Murchison, Modell, and Ford Buy In

THE FOUNDER OF THE Dallas Cowboys, Clint Murchison, Jr., who wore a crew cut
and spectacles, paid $550,000 for the team and selected former Rams general
manager Tex Schramm as the architect and general manager of the new
franchise. The Cowboys' owner was the son of another wealthy and outspoken
Texas oilman.

Murchison's father had been expelled from Trinity College for gambling. Soon
after, he became a wildcatter who struck it rich during the Texas oil boom of
the 1920s. Murchison Sr. is famous for his observation: "Money is like
manure. If you spread it around, it does a lot of good. But if you pile it up
in one place, it stinks like hell." He once bet a million dollars on a single
flip of a coin-and lost.

The Murchisons were enthusiastic supporters of Senator Joseph McCarthy's
witch-hunt and major backers of Vice President Richard Nixon in his 1960
presidential campaign against John Kennedy. After Nixon lost the election, he
bought a lot from the Murchisons in Beverly Hills for the bargain price of

The Nixon property was a part of the exclusive Trousdale Estates, which had
been developed by the Murchisons—with the help of a $6.7 million loan from
the Teamsters' Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund on
February 26, 1959.[1]

A successful businessman like his father, Clint Murchison, Jr., was also a
heavy gambler. The Murchisons operated the Del Mar racetrack in Southern
California. In 1954, profits from the track were diverted to Boys, Inc., a
nonprofit corporation to help homeless boys which had been created by the
Murchisons and their business associate Sid W. Richardson, another
high-stakes gambler.
 In 1959, the Murchisons and Richardson were investigated by the California
state legislature for allegedly using Boys, Inc. as a vehicle for the
racetrack owners to evade taxes. When the investigation was concluded, both
the state and the IRS began to levy taxes against Boys, Inc. Later, a federal
court overturned the rulings and Boys, Inc. was again exempted from federal

An annual guest of the Murchisons' nearby Hotel Del Charro in La Jolla,
California, was J. Edgar Hoover. A horse-racing fan and another big gambler,
Hoover had made a ritual of checking into the Del Charro during the racing
season at Del Mar. When the Murchisons and Richardson found themselves in
trouble over Boys, Inc., Hoover stepped forward in the midst of the
controversy and said, "I know Clint Murchison quite well and I think he would
be the last person in the country to use such a plan as a clever tax or
business subterfuge. In fact, I spoke to Murchison about ten years ago about
devoting some time and help to youth work and the charitable corporation of
Del Mar is one of his answers. This work helps directly in making the nation
sturdy, for communist penetration is currently directed mainly at labor
organizations and youth organizations." Hoover also described Murchison as
"the type of rugged individualist that made this country great."[2]

Young Murchison had been a short but tough, 120-pound halfback at a New
Jersey prep school. He did his undergraduate work in electrical engineering
at Duke, where he was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, and received his master's
degree in mathematics from MIT. By the time he bought the Cowboys, the
personal wealth of his family was estimated as being more than $2
billion—which, in Texas, was second only to their longtime rivals, the Hunt

The owner of a labyrinth of businesses, the highly secretive Murchison was
investigated by no fewer than nine federal agencies and two congressional
committees during a ten-year period beginning in 1955. The Senate Commerce
Committee wrote that Gerardo Catena of New Jersey, a top-ranking member of
the Vito Genovese crime family, "allegedly owned almost 20% of all the
production of Murchison Oil Lease [Company], Oklahoma" during the early 1950s.

Murchison was also involved in business partnerships with numerous associates
of Carlos Marcello of New Orleans, the most feared Mafia boss in the South.
And Murchison personally had real estate and banking ties with Marcello.
Although Murchison had always denied knowing Marcello, he did admit that he
occasionally had dinner at the Plantation, Marcello's New Orleans

Joseph Campisi was a close friend of Murchison. Campisi, the owner of the
Egyptian Lounge in Dallas, was associated with numerous underworld figures,
particularly Joseph Civello, the head of the Marcello-controlled Dallas
Mafia. Campisi has never been convicted of any crime but was arrested in 1944
for murder. The case was dismissed when the county grand jury determined that
he had acted in self-defense. However, he has been linked by law-enforcement
agencies to Marcello and "with both gambling and bookmaking activities in the
Dallas area."[4]

An employee of the Dallas Cowboys told my associate, William Scott Malone,
"Joe Campisi comes by the office on a regular basis. And whenever he does
enter the [headquarters] of the Dallas Cowboys, everyone seems to bow to him
... He can go in and out of any office he wants. And everyone is just sort of
thrilled to see him ...

"During draft time, he brings by dinner because everyone works late getting
ready for the draft. He supplies pizza and so forth for the general office
staff. He is considered part of the Cowboy family."

Murchison also hired Washington lobbyist I. Irving Davidson to handle public
relations for one of his companies. Davidson had often boasted that he was a
"door opener and arranger" for Marcello.[5]

Prior to buying the Cowboys, Murchison had considered buying the San
Francisco 49ers and, when that failed, made George Marshall a bid for the
Redskins. Marshall opposed Murchison's attempt to purchase any NFL team. But
he relented after Murchison bought the rights to the Redskins' fight song,
which had been obtained by Marshall's ex-wife as part of their divorce
settlement. Consequently, Murchison refused to give Marshall the right to use
the song. Soon after, Murchison bought the Cowboys with no opposition-and
Marshall got his fight song back.

Featured, along with his brother, on the cover of the June 16, 1961, issue of
Time, Murchison told the magazine, "Some people say we are gamblers, but that
isn't true. In gambling, you are betting on Lady Luck; in speculating, you
have your mind to help you, and you are betting on yourself."

Also in March 1961, thirty-five-year-old Arthur B. Modell bought the
controlling interest in the Cleveland Browns. Born and raised in Brooklyn,
Modell quit school in the tenth grade to get a job and help his family
through the Depression. He later finished high school at night and then
joined the Army Air Force in 1943. After the war, he studied broadcasting in
New York and became a producer/ director for a daytime television program.

In 1954, he slid out of television and into the advertising game, joining the
L. H. Hartmann Company, which had primarily handled ads for liquor companies
since the repeal of Prohibition. Because of his business savvy, Modell soon
became a partner in the firm. One of the companies with which Hartmann did
business was Tele King Corporation, a television company founded and owned by
syndicate figure Meyer Lansky.

L. H. Hartmann also introduced Modell to Ben Marden, a former bootlegger and
casino operator in Havana who was associated with Lansky. "He was a great
friend," Modell said of Marden in an interview with reporter Peter Phipps of
the Akron Beacon Journal. "He had one of the first casinos ever in Fort Lee
[New Jersey] in the 30s ... I was a friend of his long after it closed down."

Modell also had ties to several bookmakers and gamblers. For instance, after
buying the Browns, he became a partner in a horse-racing stable with
Youngstown native Morris "Mushy" Wexler, Who had been named by the Kefauver
Committee as one of the "leading hoodlums" in McBride's national wire
service.[6] A truck driver for McBride during the Cleveland newspaper wars,
Wexler, who was linked to Dalitz's Mayfield Road Gang, ran the Empire News
Service and was one of McBride's twenty-four "distributors," handling
business throughout the states of Ohio and West Virginia. During Wexler's
tenure as the head of Empire News, Youngstown, which experienced considerable
political corruption, became a safe haven for bookmakers, gamblers, and the
mobsters with whom they did business. He had been arrested no fewer than four
times for gambling and bookmaking-but each time the charges were dismissed.

The way the bookmaking worked at Empire was described by Eliot Ness, who had
become the director of Cleveland's Department of Public Safety after his
racket-busting days with "the Untouchables" in Chicago. Ness wrote in 1940,
"The entries, odds and results of the races come to the Empire News Service
Company via teletype over the Western Union Telegraph lines and are then sent
out over Ohio Bell Telephone Company's lines to the numerous bookmaking
establishments by a party operating a switchboard in the offices of the
Empire News Service Company."

Joe Nellis, the assistant counsel of the Kefauver Committee, told me, "Mushy
Wexler was Mickey McBride's man. Wexler owned a restaurant called the
Theatrical Grille in Cleveland where all the 'boys' used to gather. Wexler
was an inveterate gambler, and he had even been in business in Covington,
Kentucky, with bad guys like [Cleveland Mafia figures] Al Polizzi and Jimmy
Licavoli. Wexler was a bookmaker, and his restaurant was a known hangout for
the Cleveland gambling and bookmaking crowd." Among Wexler's most frequent
patrons was his old friend Art Modell.

Bernie Parrish, a former Browns defensive back, wrote in his autobiography
that Louis "Babe" Triscaro, a Cleveland Teamsters official and underworld
figure, had told him that Modell had paid Triscaro $1,900 to steal "a police
file investigation of Arthur B. Modell's background and possible connection
with old-time Mafia figures." Modell has admitted to having been a friend of
Triscaro but described Parrish's charge as "unadulterated garbage." Parrish
also described Modell as "a rabid sports-fan gambler. "[7]

When Modell married actress Patricia Breslin, the ceremony was held at the
Las Vegas home of William Weinberger, who owned a restaurant near Wexler's
saloon. Weinberger also was one of Modell's closest friends and became the
president of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. One of Weinberger's top executives
at Caesars was Jerome Zarowitz, who was convicted for attempting to fix the
1946 NFL championship game.

Before his marriage to Breslin, Modell reportedly dated the daughter of
Carroll Rosenbloom's business and gambling partner Lou Chesler. Modell has
denied this and insisted that he had met Lou Chesler only once. However,
according to Tex McCrary, "Art was a great friend of both Carroll Rosenbloom
and Lou Chesler. His advertising firm represented the General Development
Corporation," which was run by Chesler.

Modell left the Hartmann agency and joined Kastor, Hilton, Chesley, Clifford
& Atherton, which was where he was employed when he bought the Cleveland
team. The firm was the source of his seed money to buy the Browns. Modell and
his partner Rudy Schaefer of New York, the owner of Schaefer Beer Company,
purchased the team for $3,925,000, splitting the stock and with Modell
holding the controlling interest. The two men reportedly had been total
strangers before the Browns deal. Modell and Schaefer raised $1.4 million in
cash with the help of a dozen smaller investors, including a group from the
Atlantic City Racing Association. Prodded by department store tycoon Robert
Hays Gries, who had been McBride's onetime partner in the Browns, Cleveland's
Union Commerce Bank lent the group $2.5 million. Gries and his heirs later
became Modell's principal partners.[8]

After buying the Browns, Modell, who had been viewed by local fans as a
carpetbagger, said, "I came to Cleveland as an out of towner and purchased
one of the great loves of this community. I think I understand that
responsibility and I'm thankful for the support the people of this area have
given me and my family." Within three years of his purchase, Modell shocked
the Cleveland fans by firing the team's longtime coach and namesake Paul

A third management change occurred in 1961. The new president of the Detroit
Lions, William Clay Ford, was the vice president of product design for the
Ford Motor Company and a member of its board of directors. He was also the
son of the company's founder, Henry Ford. In 1964, Bill Ford bought the Lions
for $6.5 million.[9]

Although Ford's older brother, Henry Ford II, became involved in casino
gambling operations on St. Maarten island, there is no evidence that his
gambling ties or Henry Sr.'s little-known underworld contacts were handed
down to William Clay Ford.[10] The NFL has never disclosed any investigation
it has done on Ford or his family's gambling businesses.

pps. 103-108


1. Nixon's purchase of his house in Trousdale Estates was first reported by Lo
s Angeles Times reporters Gene Blake and Jack Tobin on May 17, 1962.

2. This comment from Hoover was made during an interview with Oscar Otis of Th
e Morning Telegram and is quoted in Hank Messick, John Edgar Hoover (New
York: David McKay Co., 1972), p. 147-48.

3. According to federal agents, evidence produced by government wiretaps in
the FBI's Brilab sting operation in 1978 showed a clear and direct long-term
business relationship between Marcello and Murchison. The two men had engaged
in negotiations after Murchison had expressed an interest in buying a portion
of Marcello's Churchill Farms estate in New Orleans.

4. Appendix to the Select Committee on Assassinations, U.S. Congress, House
of Representatives, 95th Cong., 2d sess., March 1979, vol. 9, p. 335. Campisi
was also known as being a friend of Jack Ruby, the murderer of John Kennedy's
assassin. Ruby had dinner at Campisi's restaurant the night before the
President's murder. Also, five days after Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald, he
called Campisi and asked to see him. Campisi, his wife, and Ruby met
privately in the Dallas County jail on November 30, 1963.

5. Davidson told me that he had been first introduced to Marcello during the
early 1950s by attorney Jack Wasserman, who represented the mob boss during
the federal government's attempts to deport him.
Davidson also admitted that he was a major gunrunner to dictator Fulgencio
Batista prior to the Cuban Revolution. "I sold a tremendous amount of tanks
and whatnot to Batista in 1958," Davidson told me. "About two months before
Batista fell, I delivered a big package to him." Earlier, Davidson had
arranged for Murchison's principal corporation, Tecon Corporation, to
construct several large military housing projects in Cuba.

6. When Wexler attempted to obtain a horse-racing license, he was rejected by
the Ohio Racing Commission-because of his association with gamblers and
underworld figures. Interestingly, accompanying Wexler's application for the
license were the names of three people who could vouch for his character, one
of whom was Modell's longtime friend George M. Steinbrenner III of Cleveland,
the president of American Ship Building Company and later the owner of the
New York Yankees major-league baseball team. Dan Topping and Del Webb sold
their interests in the New York Yankees to the Columbia Broadcasting System
in 1964. In 1973, Steinbrenner and his "committee of fifteen" purchased the
team from CBS. Among Steinbrenner's partners in the Yankees were auto
executive John DeLorean, Nelson Bunker Hunt, and Ohio real estate tycoon
Marvin Warner.
 After Wexler's application was rejected, Steinbrenner, who admitted knowing
Wexler, insisted that he had not given Wexler permission to use his name as a
character reference.
Wexler had also been banned from racing in Maryland in 1945 when one of his
horses was found to be drugged. In 1958, he was denied a racing license in
Florida because of his "close contact and relationship with bookmakers and
gamblers." However, a Florida court overturned the state racing commission's
decision and granted him the license.

7. Bernie Parrish, They Call It a Game (New York: Dial Press, Inc., 1971),
pp. 209-14.

8. For more specific details about Modell's complicated financing of the
Browns, see Parrish, A Game. Parrish is a former defensive back for the
Browns, and the team's onetime player representative to the NFL Players
Association. Also, see Peter Phipps's fascinating series in the Akron Beacon
journal, 16-18 January 1983, and David Harris's outstanding book The League.-
The Rise and Decline of the NFL (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1986).

9. The elder Ford had operated union-busting activities in Detroit,
particularly against Walter Reuther and the United Auto Workers, with the
help of the Detroit Mafia. The chief strike-breaker in Detroit was Santo
Perrone, a feared and ruthless mobster who was born in Alcamo, Sicily, and
later became one of Jimmy Hoffa's top henchmen. When Perrone went to court
for assaulting Reuther and other trade unionists during the infamous "Battle
of the Overpass" at Ford's River Rouge Plant in 1937, Perrone was represented
by Ford legal counsel, Louis J. Columbo, Sr. Law-enforcement officials allege
that Perrone also was behind the 1948 shooting of Reuther.
As part payment for their goon-squad activities, Perrone, who later went to
prison for liquor law violations, and the Detroit Mafia received a major
share of business in Detroit's trucking industry in concert with Hoffa and
the local Teamsters, particularly its steel-hauling operations, which did
considerable subcontracting with Ford. Perrone's work in the steel-hauling
business netted him $4,000 a month, even while he was in jail. "Perrone's
steel-hauling interests were handled by his wife while he was in prison,"
Vince Piersante told me. "She probably got some kind of break with the
[Teamsters]—like it left the business alone. We also know that other crime
families started getting into the trucking business during this period of
Ironically, it was Perrone and his underworld associates Angelo Meli and
Frank Coppola whom Jimmy Hoffa turned to after Hoffa's Teamsters' turf was
threatened by John L. Lewis and a raiding CIO local. Hoffa made a pact with
these underworld figures and former Ford union busters-in return for driving
the CIO out of Detroit. This deal became the major turning point in Hoffa's
plunge from union reformer to labor racketeer. The myth has always been that
Hoffa turned to organized crime in order to unionize stubborn employers. In
fact, he had used the mob to run a rival union out of town.
Another Detroit mobster who worked with Ford was Anthony D'Anna, who received
a half interest in a Ford dealership in return for his "cooperation." And yet
another Mafia figure, Joe Adonis, had the controlling interest in a New
Jersey firm that received Ford's regional distributorship.
The Kefauver Committee noted that "[o]n some occasions organized gamblers
would throw very large funds into union elections in major locals in the
Detroit area in the hopes of securing the election of officials who would
tolerate in-plant gambling."

10. Vince Piersante vouched for Ford, saying, "Bill Ford's clean, and he runs
a stable ownership structure."
     Detroit bookmaker Don Dawson, who was well informed about the Lions'
betting habits, agreed with Piersante, telling me that although Henry Ford 11
was a gambler, Bill Ford was not.
Aloha, He'Ping,
Om, Shalom, Salaam.
Em Hotep, Peace Be,
Omnia Bona Bonis,
All My Relations.
Adieu, Adios, Aloha.
Roads End

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