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    "In many ways, buying the Giants in
    1925 was another of Tim Mara’s many bets.

    A bookmaker in the days when it was legitimate work, Mara paid $500 for the
    franchise when the National Football League was in its infancy and baseball and
    boxing overshadowed the sport.

    Eighty-seven years later, the Mara family’s hold on the Giants is still
    strong as the team prepares to play in its fifth Super Bowl. Only the Chicago
    Bears, owned by the Halas-McCaskey clan, have been in the hands of one family
    longer than the Giants.

    The Maras’ enduring control — the family’s sole ownership ended in 1991 when
    hotel magnate Preston Robert Tisch bought an interest in the team — is
    considered a stabilizing force and also gives the Giants a rich history, a
    sentimentality and a legacy that has become the essence of the organization.

    "That continuity is critical,’’ said Joe Horrigan, vice president of
    communications for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. "It’s vitally
    important that the league has a number of these legacy teams.’’

    Horrigan said the institutional history, the knowledge and sacrifices that
    come after years of experience is important to draw on. Longtime Wellington
    Mara’s push for an NFL policy providing for television revenues to be shared
    equally among the league’s teams, is an example.

    "He had everything to lose," Horrigan said. But Mara had the vision to see
    that the league had to be strong for the teams to continue playing, Horrigan
    said. "It’s living proof that doing what’s good for the majority works and
    there’s a respect that comes when someone can say I’ve done it. I see the
    rewards of it," he said.

    In the business world, consistency in management is often what keeps a
    company running smoothly, makes an organization solid and a culture intact.

    The family ownership of the Giants brings a sharper focus, said Marc Ganis, a
    consultant to many NFL teams. "It’s meant that there is a focus on the field and
    a reinvestment in the team rather than any need to pull money out for the owners
    or for acquisition costs," Ganis said. "(And) there is a focus on keeping this
    team within the two families forever, so they operate it as a legacy business —
    not as an entrepreneurial venture."

    Over nearly nine decades, the Giants have played in five venues, been led by
    16 coaches and have won three Super Bowls. Its ownership has spanned two
    generations of the Tisch family and three generations of Maras. That consistency
    has helped to build one of the most respected and beloved organizations in the
    National Football League. Today, the Giants organization is valued at $3
    billion, according to recent estimates published by Forbes.


    From the start, the family’s attachment to the team was strong.

    When the stock market crashed in 1929, Tim Mara, the family patriarch,
    suffered major losses. When the effects of the Great Depression took hold, Mara
    worried he might also lose his football team. In 1931, he shielded it by turning
    over the ownership to his two sons, Jack, 22, and Wellington, 14.

    By the 1940s, the Giants were a burgeoning powerhouse of talent. They reached
    three NFL championship games and rode out World War II when many teams were
    forced to fold or merge as players left for war.

    Professional football continued to gain popularity, and the Giants were part
    of the reason why. The team’s glory years came during the 1950s when Giants
    players like Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and Emlen Tunnell became household names.
    Tim Mara died in 1959 as the team hit a low point. While the Giants struggled
    with a series of retirements and injuries, other teams — Green Bay and Dallas
    among them — were becoming greater NFL powerhouses during the 1960s.

    The Giants became the dogs of the league in the 1970s. John Mara,
    Wellington’s son and the current Giants president, described those tough times
    in a word: "abysmal." The team’s move to Giants Stadium in 1976 may have been a
    bright spot, but the decade was marred by the team finishing last or
    next-to-last eight times.

    "We became kind of joke," Mara said during a telephone interview this week
    from Indianapolis. "Those memories haunt me."


    On the field and off, the Giants were suffering.

    When Jack Mara died in 1965, his son, Tim, stepped into the role of co-owner.
    The partnership between Wellington Mara and his nephew wasn’t an easy one
    though. Giants fans who lived through it refer to the period as "the dark

    In 1987, the feud got so bad that Wellington installed Venetian blinds
    between the two owners’ luxury suites. His nephew countered by installing wood
    paneling, according to an account published in Forbes magazine. Finally, NFL
    Commissioner Pete Rozelle designated the team’s new general manager, George
    Young, to act as an intermediary.

    Enter Preston Robert Tisch, one of the country’s most successful businessmen
    who with his brother had created the multibillion-dollar Loews Corp. empire.
    When Tisch approached his longtime friend Wellington Mara about owning a piece
    of the team in 1990, Mara steered him to his nephew, whom he had heard might be
    interested in selling his shares.

    The deal went through the next year when Tisch, known as Bob, bought 50
    percent of the Giants for a reported $75 million in 1991, just before his 65th

    While it was against league rules to have divided ownership, the deal was
    grandfathered in because of Mara’s history with the league, and the confidence
    that the two men would work well together, said Paul Tagliabue, who worked
    closely with both men as NFL commissioner.

    "They had great respect for each other, and for each other’s
    specializations," Tagliabue said. "Mr. Tisch always respected Mr. Mara’s acumen
    in football and his knowledge of how to run a football team, and Mr. Mara always
    respected Mr. Tisch’s acumen as a businessman."

    The differences that had hung over the Giants executive offices for so long
    were finally resolved. A few years later, in 1995, Tim Mara died from Hodgkins
    disease, relegating the long-running feud to a piece of team lore.


    The timing of the Mara-Tisch partnership couldn’t have been better.
    Professional football was changing. As the NFL gained popularity, the scale of
    the business grew. Wellington Mara, who had influenced the league’s growth as
    much as he guided his own team, could see what was coming. It was important to
    him that Tisch was experienced and skilled in business, Tagliabue said.

    Wellington Mara remained in charge of staffing decisions and league voting
    while Tisch built up the Giants’ marketing and advertising departments. Ernie
    Accorsi, a former general manager who remains close with the Mara family,
    described Tisch as the "perfect partner’’ to Mara.

    For any other partnership — particularly in sports — a 50-50 split could mean
    conflict, but it never was for Tisch and Mara. "(They) have gone exactly in the
    opposite direction and actually build on each other’s strengths and
    contributions," said Ganis, who knows the families personally. "Instead of
    becoming a problem, it has become a great opportunity."

    In 2003, Mara turned control of the Giants over to his oldest son, John,
    making him president and chief executive officer. On the Tisch side, it was
    Steve, a Hollywood movie producer, who served as chairman and executive vice
    president. (Tisch’s work includes "Forrest Gump’’ and "Risky Business.’’)

    In an interview with Forbes magazine the same year, Mara, who was often
    described as a football purist, described how he had always focused on the
    personnel side of football.

    "The league has changed,’’ the 87-year-old Mara told the magazine. "It’s
    become a marketing powerhouse and a conglomerate, and there no place for
    sentiment in a business like that."

    The Mara and Tisch sons worked together just as well as their fathers did,
    according to people familiar with the families.

    "This was not a shotgun marriage — these are people who work well together,
    recognize each other’s strengths," said Ganis, who said the sons clearly learned
    from their fathers. "It’s an extraordinary partnership."

    Two years after passing management of the team onto his son, Wellington Mara
    died. The other force behind the modern-day Giants, 79-year-old Robert Tisch
    died three weeks later.

    Carl Goldberg, a real estate developer who worked with the families during
    negotiations of the new MetLife Stadium in his role as chairman of the New
    Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, said working with the new partners, John
    Mara and Steve Tisch was "a pleasure.’’

    "I was always struck by how well they communicated their ideas to one
    another," said Goldberg, managing partner of Roseland Property Company, one of
    the state’s leading residential developers. "They were very sensitive to each
    other’s opinions and really tried to come up with one voice as to what the
    Giants’ opinion would be on a specific issue."


    The Maras are a classic Irish Catholic family — large and tight-knit. Ann
    Mara, Wellington’s 87-year-old widow, still gathers the family — she has 10
    children and 43 grandchildren — together on Christmas Eve at the family
    homestead in New York’s Westchester County.

    John Mara, a soft-spoken man who friends describe as grounded, has joked that
    he has the job of running the Giants because he was "lucky’’ enough to be
    first-born. And to many, he embodies many of the traits that made his father so
    respected. "You never have a son that’s exactly like the father, but he’s as
    close as you can get,’’ said Ernie Accorsi, the team’s former general manager.
    "He’s the modern version of his father.’’

    John Mara responds personally to many telephone calls and letters that come
    into his office from fans. "It’s important,’’ he said. "It builds up loyalty,
    and it increases the feeling they have for the team.’’

    "You want to make them feel like they’re part of the family,’’ he said.

    And then, of course, there is the family.

    While Mara’s mother still holds the greatest share of the family’s ownership
    in the Giants franchise, he and his siblings each own shares as well. John Mara
    works in the front office with his brother Chris, who is senior vice president
    of player personnel and Frank Mara, another brother, who is vice president of
    community relations. Jonathan Tisch, another of Bob’s sons, is the
    organization’s treasurer.

    "I have their trust,’’ said Mara, who also votes on behalf of his family.
    "They know I’m acting in all of our best interests.’’

    But like the fans, Mara said his relatives often "let their feelings be

    That was certainly the case last month when Ann Mara interrupted Fox analyst
    Terry Bradshaw’s postgame interview with wide-receiver Victor Cruz after the
    Giants beat the San Francisco 49ers. Tapping her finger into the former
    quarterback’s arm, Mara scolded Bradshaw for always picking against the

    Bradshaw playfully apologized, and Mara smiled and walked off camera.

    The very sentimentality that Wellington Mara feared was slipping away from
    professional football is actually still part of the legacy his family carries

    "We all take a lot of pride in this team," John Mara said. "When the team
    runs out on the field every Sunday, I feel like they’re representing my

    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1

  • #2

    Love the history of this family Ann and Wellington you did a great job with your kids!!! Robert Tisch you did a great job with yours!


    • #3

      Thanks for the history. It is easy to forget about the owners who actually play the pivotal part in the Giants organization.


      • #4

        [quote user="redjersies"]Thanks for the history. It is easy to forget about the owners who actually play the pivotal part in the Giants organization.[/quote]

        Wellington Mara is widely credited with saving the NFL with his revenue sharing plan.
        “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1