Prof. Catharine Wells (Law) claims that her days as a Red Sox fan ended after the 1978 season when the team let go legendary pitcher and cigar aficianado Luis Tiant.

Prof. Catharine Wells (Law)
But Wells took more than a passing interest in the controversial, seemingly endless sale of the Red Sox from the Yawkey Trust to a group headed by financier John Henry, as well as the intervention by Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly. After challenging the propriety of the sale process - especially the fact that the Henry group had not submitted the highest bid - Reilly negotiated a last-minute settlement that produced an additional $30 million for charities.

A former director of the Division of Public Charities in the state AG's office, Wells said Reilly's actions called into question whether he had overstepped his authority as attorney general in enforcing the application of charitable funds.

In a recent column penned for the Boston Herald's "As You Were Saying" feature, Wells noted that the attorney general has no authority to approve or disapprove the sale of assets that benefit trusts, and can only file suit against a charitable trustee alleging a breach of fiduciary duty.

What Reilly and other critics failed to appreciate, according to Wells, was that the sale reflected the wishes of the late Jean Yawkey, who had carried on the legacy of her husband and long-time Sox owner, Thomas, since his death. Red Sox CEO John Harrington, as head of the Yawkey Trust, "was bound to honor Mrs. Yawkey's hopes for the Red Sox as well as to maximize the proceeds from their sale," she wrote.

Under these circumstances, Wells continued, Harrington was not required to accept the highest bid. "For example, Harrington, as trustee, might well have rejected an offer that required the team to move from Massachusetts. Harrington balanced these two goals as he saw fit and a court would not second-guess him without a showing of substantial abuse."

Wells compared Reilly's actions to those of a criminal prosecutor "overcharging defendants in the hopes that they will plead guilty on a lesser charge." Although his tactic worked, Wells expressed concern that the "delicate balance" between the attorney general and public charities had been compromised in the process.

Interviewed earlier this month, a few days after Henry and his associates officially took over the team, Wells sounded a positive note about the sale's benefit for charities.

"There are some very exciting possibilities," she said. "In addition to the Yawkey Trust's charitable foundation, which has been enriched by the sale, now there will be The New Boston Red Sox Foundation, created by the Henry group. It's not just that more dollars will go to human services, although that's certainly important. Charitable trusts provide leadership."

With "El Tiante" now having returned to the fold as a pitching coach in the Red Sox system, meanwhile, Wells might even rejoin the Old Town Team following once more.

"Ted Williams was my hero as a kid, and I always heard about how wonderful Tom Yawkey was," she said. "I guess you never completely stop caring about the Sox, and you can't help being at least a little optimistic about the change. The new owners do seem like professional baseball people."

-Sean Smith


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