Sox advisor vows to repay some debt, seeks aid
By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 03/28/00
Under pressure from team officials, Red Sox development adviser Robert
Walsh pledged yesterday to pay the state nearly $200,000 in late mortgage
payments owed on a publicly subsidized housing project he helped develop.
But Walsh, who is involved in the Red Sox's proposed $600 million ballpark
project, is also looking to City Hall to erase up to $1 million in outstanding
city loans for three Boston development projects that he supervised. Two of
the three debt-riddled developments that Walsh oversaw have ties to the team.
The city is owed money on the Latin Academy housing project, in which the
Jean R. Yawkey Trust, which controls the Red Sox, is one of five limited
partners, and an office project in Dorchester at the former St. Peter's
School, in which Red Sox executive John Buckley was a limited investor. Walsh
played a lead role in managing both developments.
But his push for forgiveness of the public debt comes at a sensitive time
for team officials, who are expected within the next few weeks to request up
to $250 million in city and state funds for their new ballpark.
Walsh stressed that he undertook the projects years before he and Buckley
began working for the Red Sox, and said the projects were a victim of the real
estate crash of the 1980s and early '90s. "This has nothing to do with the Red
Sox," Walsh said last night.
While Walsh led all three developments, he had different partners in each
one. Buckley, for example, was working as an accountant with Ernst and Young
when he invested in the Dorchester office park.
Eventually the FDIC took possession of the property and sold the mortgage
to another investor. Walsh said the development team still owes "about
$200,000" to the city on the project, but said he and city officials are in
talks about forgiving or "restructuring" the debt.
The Latin Academy project was financed in part through a Massachusetts
Housing Finance Agency loan of more than $3 million and roughly $800,000 in
city loans. As the Boston Herald reported last week, the project was 11
months delinquent and the state was owed roughly $200,000 on its MHFA
As a limited partner, the Yawkey Trust was not liable for the overdue
mortgage. However, apparently concerned about the impact of the delinquency on
the team's plans, Red Sox chief John Harrington pressed Walsh to pay up.
Yesterday Walsh notified the MHFA in writing that he would cover the overdue
City development officials noted that the city often "forgives" loans when
a project that serves a public purpose becomes burdened with too much debt.
They also stressed that Walsh, a close friend and informal development adviser
to Mayor Thomas M. Menino, is "not recieving any preferential treatment."
However, the delay in paying the state mortgage may prove costly when the
team looks for public investment in a new ballpark on Beacon Hill this spring.
"Clearly some damage has been done," House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran said
yesterday when asked about Walsh's stewardship of the Latin Academy project.
"This gives skeptics more ammunition."