A history and business lesson

When people retain their civility, it can bring mutual opportunities


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In a small state like New Hampshire, especially in an earlier era when the population was smaller, politics was less combative and candidates had “opponents,” not “enemies.” Participating in public affairs could lead to meaningful business and lifelong personal relationships.

I was reminded of these facts in late June, when the obituary of Thomas A. Corcoran, 85, appeared in the NH Union Leader.

In 1960, Tom Corcoran became the most accomplished Olympic skier ever to represent the United States up to that time. Later, he became a significant New Hampshire businessman and founder of the Waterville Company, which developed the Waterville Valley resort. His relationship with the law firm in which I have worked since 1972 is a significant part of its history, and the story is a lesson in how one never knows where business is going to come from.

The story starts with our name partner, Perkins Bass, then a congressman, deciding to run for the U.S. Senate in 1962, for the unfinished term of the late Styles Bridges, who was replaced by Gov. Wesley Powell with Powell’s law partner, Maurice Murphy.

In the primary, Bass, congressman from the 2nd District, was the moderate Republican, with Murphy trying to get elected to the seat, and Mrs. Doloris Bridges, widow of the late senator, the candidate of the right and Union Leader publisher William Loeb.

Bill Phinney, Bill Green, Kim Zachos and Dick Morse of our firm all were key parts of the Bass campaign team.

Democrats had to nominate someone, even though the GOP had had a lock on elective office for some time in New Hampshire, and Thomas J. McIntyre, mayor of Laconia, was nominated.

Bass won the primary, angering Loeb.

Meanwhile, the above-mentioned Powell ran for a third term as governor, something no one ever had achieved since two-year terms were adopted. Powell was beaten in the primary by John Pillsbury of Public Service Company of New Hampshire. The Democratic nomination went to the minority leader of the NH House, John W. King, who immediately labeled Pillsbury “Reddy Kilowatt.”

Powell took a walk. Loeb endorsed McIntyre. The GOP was split. McIntyre and King were elected, basically founding the modern Democratic Party in New Hampshire.

McIntyre’s campaign was run largely by the Dunfey brothers, who owned hospitality businesses in Hampton and Manchester. During the campaign, the Dunfeys and the Sheehan attorneys, although on opposite sides, got to know, like and respect each other.

After the election, the Dunfeys hired Bill Green and the firm to represent their hospitality empire, which grew to include the Wayfarer in Bedford, Parker House in Boston and hotels in New York and in many cities of the world. Their business kept several attorneys in the firm busy for much of their careers in the ‘60’s, ‘70’s and early ‘80’s.

Later, Thomas G. Corcoran, of Washington, D.C., the famous “Tommy the Cork” of the Roosevelt administration and later power broker for decades in Washington, inquired of his fellow Democrats, the Dunfeys, what law firm his nephew, Olympic skier Thomas A. Corcoran, should use in developing a ski area in the White Mountains.

The Dunfeys recommended Bill Green and the firm, who then formed the Waterville Company and helped acquire land and leases in the White Mountain National Forest, and were key to developing and helping the Waterville Company operate.

After many successful years of operation, during one of the economic downturns, the Waterville Company was endangered, and Tom Corcoran had to sell it to a ski conglomerate. The ski area is now owned by the family of Governor Sununu.

Bill Green and his wife Joan sat in Tommy the Cork’s seats at Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1980, when several of the firm’s attorneys attended, since it was also our partner, Warren Rudman’s, arrival in D.C., as a newly elected senator.

This story shows how disparate parts of life can lead to relationships, business opportunities and economic progress, if only people retain their civility and take advantage of mutual opportunities.

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups.

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