July 27, 2010 -- printable html

Not exactly mirror images... On left, Mt. Watkins is reflected on Mirror Lake. On right, the Monopoly board game.

On the Trail of Yosemite's Monopoly Concessionaire

cont. from page 1

Naturally, the specter of DNC consorting with mafia dons and crime syndicates is a touchy subject.  In fact, the matter was not even broached when the congressional committee met in 1993.  It should have been, for at the time of the hearing, a sensational murder was being prosecuted in an Arizona courtroom, one with Emprise’s paw prints all over it. And a central figure in that case would ultimately decide the winner of the Yosemite contract.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Delaware North Companies is but the latest in a parade of corporate aliases dating back a century.  Initially billed as Jacob Brothers  for the three siblings who hawked popcorn and peanuts at baseball games  the enterprise was later christened Sportservice, then later, Sportsystems. In Yosemite, employees and visitors knew the company by the name Yosemite Concessions Service. Two years ago, this benign storefront was scrapped in favor of another DNC Parks and Resorts. 

The most notorious of the firm’s emanations, Emprise was set up as a holding company in 1961.  The word is defined as “daring” or “prowess” in undertaking a  venture.  In1972, Sports Illustrated offered its own take on the name: “Enterprise and empire: Emprise.”

While Jacobs Brothers may have began unremarkably, its mark on the world of sports would be profound. Over time, Louis learned how to leverage concessions contracts on the back of interest-free loans to sports franchises in need.  There was a lot of need back then, too.

Godfather of Sports - Sports Illustrated"The empire itself is a phenomenon, extending almost unnoticed beneath the structure of American sport, like a vast catacomb. To understand the empire one must appreciate the late emperor. " - Sports Illustrated            

1972 cover featuring Louis Jacobs, co-founder and first CEO of Emprise/Delaware North Companies.

By the early seventies, Emprise was managing the food/beverage services for seven major league baseball teams, eight professional football teams, five professional basketball teams and four hockey teams. Quite a Horatio Alger story on the surface. In the shadows, however, there lurked an almost diabolical intrigue.  According to the SI piece:

“In keeping with the old man's modus operandi, Emprise money rolled out as fast as it rolled in, fertilizing the empire's pastures. (Louie once told a potential partner, "Anytime you want more than $3 million, give us 24 hours' notice. Any less than that sum, we'll get you immediately.") While stadium patrons from Seattle to Orlando, Fla. were helping make Sportservice a $100 million-a-year operation by devouring 20 million hot dogs, gulping 30 million soft drinks, guzzling 25 million cups of beer and shelling five million bags of peanuts, the company's private loan office Louie's crowbar was shelling out.”  (5)

The ballpark franchises were just the beginning.  There were other reasons why Louie’s portrait ended up on a magazine cover alongside the headline “Godfather of Sports”:

“According to James (Jimmy Doyle) Plumeri, a New York shylock and labor racketeer who was murdered last year, Louie Jacobs furnished financial backing for boxers controlled by Plumeri and the notorious Frankie Carbo during the 1950s. Jacobs' funding of Plumeri enabled him to use Plumeri's labor clout, along with that of another mobster, Johnny Dio, to head off strikes at sports sites. Plumeri once told of how back in Prohibition days Louie Jacobs financed the purchase of rum-running boats that brought booze from Canada to Buffalo.”

Ties to the underworld were surfacing on DNC’s balance sheet like leaks in a raft. Among the most notable, Emprise partnered up with Jerry Catena, leader of the New York mafia, and Raymond Patriarca of the New England Cosa Nostra on a slot machine business called Lion Manufacturing. SI's 9,000-word tomé by John Underwood and Morton Sharnik’s spelled out the details:

“According to the SEC, Emprise indeed was the largest single stockholder, controlling the business by virtue of a voting trust agreement resulting from a $1 million bank loan to Lion in 1963... Max Jacobs says that his father had Emprise invest in Lion because of ‘a good coffee machine’ it made, but that Louie sold out when the true nature of Lion's operation was discovered. Catena sold his stock in 1965 at more than a $140,000 profit.

"Tony (Ducks) Corallo, a New York Mafia figure, has another version of the Lion venture. Coffee machines, good or bad, do not enter into it. From the beginning, he says, it was to be Catena's deal. Catena needed $1 million to take over the amusement device corporation. He had the money in cold cash, but he could not use it without risking prosecution for tax evasion. To oblige Catena, Louie Jacobs guaranteed a $1 million loan that set up the purchase of the company. Two years later, as another favor to Catena, Louie sold his interest in Lion.

Mug sho tof Gerardo "Jerry" Catena --- Johnny Dio's arrest

Tony Zerilli ------ mug shots of Raymond Patriarcha

Unlikely Proximity Group -- Louis Jacobs wasn't picky about his business associates. Clockwise from top left:  Gerardo "Jerry" Catena, Johnny Dio, Anthony Zerilli and Raymond Patriarcha.

In another oft-cited example of facilitating the exploits of organized crime, Emprise and the Teamsters helped Cleveland racketeer Morris B. "Moe" Dalitz buy the Stardust casino from Al Capone associate Jake "The Barber" Factor.  Testimony before the House Select Committee on Crime revealed that Emprise had been lending money to the Cleveland mob since 1937. (6)

The sheer volume of these links and dealings eventually made the company hard for the authorities to ignore.  Three months before the SI article appeared, a federal jury in Los Angeles found Louis and his eldest son Max guilty of conspiring to help conceal the identity of two purchasers of a Las Vegas casino. The real owners, Detroit mobsters Anthony J. Zerilli and Michael S. Polizzi, received five-year sentences for their scam.  Emprise was fined $10,000 but neither Jacobs was indicted. Perhaps having a name that didn’t end in a vowel helped cushion the blow. (Louis died three years earlier from a heart attack, so the verdict didn't affect him one way or another.)

Still, the felony conviction put a crimp in the revenue stream of an expanding empire.  In fact, the whole kit and kaboodle depended on liquor licenses, operating permits and contracts from state and local government agencies.  All that teetered in the balance now. So the company reorganized – on paper, that is – with Emprise placed as a subidiary under a new corporation known as Sportsystems.  Max Jacobs also stepped down. Another officer and director of the company assumed the helm of the mothership – Max's younger brother Jeremy. He was 28 years old.

In a twist of irony (if not logic), the new Emprise recruited former officials of the Nixon’s Justice Department to help repair its tattered reputation. The deployment of the heavy hitters paid off, too. For instance, Henry E. Peterson, the U.S. assistant attorney general assigned by the President to direct the early Watergate investigation, joined forces with convicted burglar E. Howard Hunt’s lawyer William Bittman (a former DOJ prosecutor)  to block a bill in the Florida State Legislature.  Designed by its author to put Emprise out of business there, the measure was defeated in three consecutive sessions, according to the Daytona Beach Morning Journal. (7)

In the end, only four states bothered to hold the company’s feet to the fire. Tiny Vermont and sparsely populated Oregon both canceled Emprise's liquor licenses. The Morning Journal noted that in its ruling, the Oregon Dept. of Justice stated the Jacobs family "should not be permitted to hide behind corporate fictions to avoid civil liabilities of a felony conviction." 

In California, the Horse Racing Board found Emprise guilty of committing "an act involving moral turpitude, is of bad moral character, and has a bad reputation for truth, honesty and integrity." However, a judge reversed the decision. (8)

Emprise was off to the races again.

Cruella Delaware North and 1001 Greyhounds

Zerilli and Polizzi, incidentally, sat on the board of directors of Hazel Downs, a racetrack in which Emprise had a 12 percent interest. By 1972, the year of its felony conviction, Emprise held concessions contracts and/or an ownership stake in 50 horse and dog tracks in the U.S. and Canada, plus 10 more in England and Puerto Rico, according to Sports Illustrated.  So lucrative had the racetrack business become that for awhile, the toiling quadrapeds were generating half of DNC’s revenues. The company would infuse serious amounts of capital into the industry again in the late 1980’s.(9)

Continued on Page 3


5.   "What has Louie Wrought."  By John Underwood  and Morton Sharnik.  Sports Illustrated 5/29/72. Retrieved 7/2/10.  http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1086154/index.htm  | Return

6.   "Hot Dogs, Beer, And Car Bombs.." By Don Bauder. San Diego Reader 4/29/04.  http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2004/apr/29/hot-dogs-beer-and-car-bombs/ "Phoenix Rising."  By C.D. Stelzer.  Riverfront Times (St. Louis) 6/11/97.  http://web.archive.org/web/20001213033000/http://home.stlnet.com/~cdstelzer/bolles.html   | Return

7.    "Parimutuels Trying to Shake Emprise Image." Daytona Beach Morning Journal 1/5/77 http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1873&dat=19770105&id=KLItAAAAIBAJ&sjid=asoEAAAAIBAJ&pg=1191,1370177  | Return

8.    Ibid.  Former Attorney General Richard Kleindienst also got in on the action.  In 1974, after pleading to a misdemeanor in the Watergate cover-up, he was sent out to pitch Teamsters President Frank Fitzimmons for a loan to develop a racetrack in Henderson, Nevada.  For more on this, see the 5/6/81 article in the Prescott Courier  http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=886&dat=19810506&id=1NYvAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Ek0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=6483,743256  | Return

9.   Delaware North Companies Incorporated." International Directory of Company Histories 1993. Encyclopedia.com. (retrieved June 22, 2010). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2841100048.html   | Return

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