Billionaire Jeremy Jacobs & sons leave Delaware North workers on thin ice
The COVID-19 crisis has set off record levels of unemployment in Massachusetts and beyond, turning the public health crisis into an economic crisis as well. But while unions, community groups, public servants and individuals are doing all we can to help our members and neighbors, some corporations and the billionaires who own them are leaving Massachusettans high and dry.
Take one-percenter Jeremy Jacobs, Jr. and family. The Jacobs family owns Delaware North, owner and operator of TD Garden, including the new mixed-use Hub on Causeway development. Jacobs is also the owner of Boston’s famed hockey team, the Bruins. Although the family is worth a cool $3.5 billion, they just furloughed tens of thousands of employees.
Corporate watchdog LittleSis included Jacobs and Delaware North in its recent profile of “The Billionaires Behind the Crisis,” noting:
Delaware North has more than 55,000 full-time and part-time employees. In a press release on March 25th, Delaware North announced that it was placing two-thirds of the company’s 3,100 full-time employees on temporary leave with only one single week of pay. The press release emphasized that “great attention was given” to make sure employees had medical benefits for eight weeks despite only receiving pay for one week. Moreover, those who were lucky enough not to outright lose their jobs will now be expected to work for less pay.
The tens of thousands of part-time Delaware North employees are getting nothing from the company or its billionaire owners.
In addition to his concessions empire, Jacobs owns the NHL’s Boston Bruins and TD Garden, where they play. All part-time TD Garden employees were laid off as part of Delaware North’s culling while 45% of the full-time salaried staff were given the one week of pay and eight weeks of benefits outlined in the company’s general statement.
Later, the Buffalo News, Delaware North’s hometown newspaper, reported that the corporation is putting even more of its full-time employees on leave. Delaware North did not say how many.
Boston Globe columnist Christopher Gasper looked deeper into Jacob’s “pathetic” actions at TD Garden, writing,
The Bruins have barely done the bare minimum during this crisis. While other teams in the NBA and NHL offered comprehensive plans and dutiful pledges to keep paying arena employees during these unprecedented times, the Bruins remained conspicuously silent until they released a terse and ambiguous statement last Saturday, promising to create a $1.5 million fund for part-time Bruins and Garden employees financially burdened by the coronavirus crisis. There was one considerable caveat. The money would only be released after the final six postponed regular-season home games were officially cancelled.
The NHL still hasn’t cancelled its season despite calls for it to do so. Until it does (or if it doesn’t) TD Garden workers will be weathering this crisis with little to no support from the team whose season they helped make possible.
Facing criticism, including from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, some of the younger Jacobs tried to make excuses. Jerry Jacobs claimed the family business doesn’t have enough resources and described calls for more worker support as “sort of like saying, ‘You have a net worth and that includes your house and you have to sell your house in order to have the cash to actually give it away.’ That’s very much the situation we’re in.” Speaking of houses, LittleSis reports that Jacobs Sr. “lives in a 35,000 square-foot mansion on Deeridge Farm, a 250-acre estate designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the tony Buffalo suburb of East Aurora. Jacobs also owns a 200-acre estate in the billionaire playground of Wellington, Florida with the same name.” What Jerry Jacobs left out is that the capital accumulated by Delaware North and the Jacobs family—to buy houses or grow their business—is only possible because of the workers they are now cutting loose without a salary or benefits.
This is not the first time Jacobs and Delaware North have short-changed Bostonians.
In 2017, youth from the Hyde Square Task Force discovered that Jacobs had gone 24 years without fulfilling a promise he made to secure development rights for the Garden. In 1993, Jacobs promised to hold three charity events annually and dedicate net proceeds to the Metropolitan District Commission for public recreational facilities in Boston. TD Garden never held any of these fundraisers. Only after the youth group exposed this cop-out did Jacobs agree to pay $1.65 million, an amount the Globe editors said “falls far short of what should be reasonably expected from him, given the millions he reaps as owner of the Garden and the Boston Bruins.”
That paltry settlement looks even worse given how Delaware North has benefited for years from a special property tax break intended for projects that serve a public purpose and bring benefits to so-called “blighted” areas. The tax break, known as a 121A exemption, lets Delaware North and its partner Boston Properties save millions by paying only a $10 tax per 1000 square feet instead of the usual rate (currently $24.92), plus additional payments negotiated directly with the city. The 121A exemption was granted in 2013, despite community opposition to giving a tax break to billionaires for lucrative development at an iconic site. In 2013, Boston Business Journal reported:
James Zahka, a member of the West End Civic Association, said under no circumstance should the project be granted 121A status.
“The area is not blighted and the notion of granting tax breaks to billionaires in unconscionable,” he said. “Jeremy Jacobs of Delaware North has a net worth of $2.8 billion and Mort Zuckerman of Boston Properties has a net worth of $2.3 billion. There is no reason to grant tax subsidies. “The 121A exemption that Delaware North will enjoy until 2029 was granted in part because the project would create 5000 permanent jobs in Boston. But those promised “livelihoods for residents” have evaporated for the foreseeable future. Thousands of former TD Garden workers are struggling right this moment–Delaware North should dedicate its tax relief, and more, to support them today, and stop making them wait any longer.