John W. Henry is beginning his 16th season as Principal Owner of the Boston Red Sox, but in one way his relationship to baseball has changed little since he was growing up in rural Arkansas, listening to games broadcast on a Zenith short-wave radio. "I certainly identify with the fans," he said, "because I've been one my entire life." And from December 20, 2001, the day an investment group led by Mr. Henry and Tom Werner bought the Red Sox, he understood the mandate he had inherited.
"Win a World Series? That's not my choice, it's my role, it's my obligation to New England," Mr. Henry said. "That's what I've been charged with. When you bid on the Red Sox, the challenge you're undertaking is nothing short of winning the World Series."
Three World Series titles in a 10-season span - 2004, 2007, and 2013 - have earned the Henry-Werner ownership team a special place in Red Sox history, the franchise having endured an 86-year stretch, beginning in 1918, in which it did not win baseball's ultimate prize. But the quest continues, the team's success only reinforcing Mr. Henry's determination that the Red Sox remain a perennial contender, with the goal of playing meaningful games in October.
In one sense, Mr. Henry says, he is owner by proxy. The true owners, he asserts, are Red Sox fans, those in New England and spread across the country and globally in numbers deserving of the designation, "Red Sox Nation." He sees his role as being a steward of this much-loved baseball team, which entails providing a championship-caliber product on the field while also serving as an involved and committed member of the community.
By any measure, the Red Sox have succeeded on both fronts. The club's winning percentage of .551 ranks third in Major League Baseball since the start of the 2002 season, and the Red Sox have won more postseason games (45) than any American League team in that span. That includes what many regard as the most improbable comeback in professional sports, when the Red Sox lost the first three games of the American League Championship Series in 2004 to the New York Yankees, then won the next four games, becoming the first major league team ever to win a series after trailing, three games to none.
Immediately after taking ownership, Mr. Henry and his partners also founded - and funded - the Red Sox Foundation, which has become the largest and one of the fastest-growing team charities in Major League Baseball. Though a relative newcomer to the New England philanthropic community, it has won numerous awards for its imaginative outreach and impact, including the 2009 national award for "Best Sports Charity" from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Sports Philanthropy Project. In 2010 it was recognized by Major League Baseball with the inaugural "Commissioner's Award for Philanthropic Excellence" for the Red Sox Scholars program, the foundation's educational cornerstone. Supported through generous donations from Mr. Henry and Mr. Werner and their partners, as well as corporate sponsors and fans attending fund-raising events, the Red Sox Foundation has made a significant impact on the lives of those it serves. To date, it has committed more than $93 million to health, education, recreation, military, and social service programs primarily benefitting at-risk children and families.
The operation of the club always has been, and will continue to be, a collaborative effort, Mr. Henry maintains. He cites the close relationships he enjoys with Werner, the team's chairman; Larry Lucchino, who was the team's president and CEO for the first 14 seasons; Sam Kennedy, who has succeeded Lucchino as club president; and David Dombrowski, who was appointed the President of Baseball Operations in August 2015.
"Tom Werner and I are like brothers," Mr. Henry says. "We talk every day about ideas on how to improve everything from the New England Sports Network to the length of the grass on the field."
With Lucchino, whom Mr. Henry described as "my role model when it comes to baseball executives," moving into an emeritus role, Kennedy became president on October 16, 2015.
"Since 2012, we have known that it would be a natural transition for Sam to succeed Larry when he was ready to relinquish the reins," Mr. Henry said. "Tom and I feel fortunate that there is an obvious and strong successor within our organization." With Dombrowski's appointment on August 18, 2015, Mr. Henry renewed a relationship that has its roots in Florida, where Dombrowski served as general manager when Mr. Henry owned the Florida Marlins.
"I have known Dave very well for a long time," Mr. Henry said. "Tom and I have no doubts that Dave is the right person to strengthen our baseball operations group going forward."
Mr. Henry has garnered a wealth of experience - and multiple championship rings - at three different levels in his 29 years in baseball at an ownership level. Prior to purchasing the Red Sox, he was chairman and sole owner of the Marlins. He also was a limited partner of the New York Yankees, and chairman and majority owner of the Tucson Toros of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Mr. Henry also formed a co-ownership with Boca Raton, FL attorney Don Sider in the West Palm Beach Tropics of the Senior Professional Baseball League. The Tropics, managed by former Red Sox manager Dick Williams, posted a league-best 52-20 record in his one-year ownership, led by Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers and All-Stars Toby Harrah, Dave Kingman, Mickey Rivers, and Al Hrabosky.
A pioneering trader of commodities futures, for more than 35 years Mr. Henry has served as chairman of John W. Henry & Company, Inc., which he founded in 1981. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Future Industry Association, National Association of Futures Trading Advisors and the Managed Futures Trade Association. He was elected to the Futures Industry Association's Hall of Fame as a recognized leader in alternative asset financial product innovation. Mr. Henry is Principal Owner of Fenway Sports Group, formerly New England Sports Ventures (NESV). On October 15, 2010, Fenway Sports Group acquired 100% of Liverpool Football Club (LFC), one of the world's most historic sporting institutions. Fenway Sports Group owns a portfolio of companies that includes LFC, the Boston Red Sox, New England Sports Network, Fenway Sports Management, and Roush Fenway Racing. In October 2013, Mr. Henry purchased the Boston Globe. With the purchase, Mr. Henry became the third owner in the history of the Boston Globe, which is the largest newspaper in New England. In January 2014, Mr. Henry became the ninth publisher of the Boston Globe.
Born in Quincy, Illinois, Mr. Henry spent most of his childhood on the family farm in Forrest City, Arkansas, where his father raised soybeans, corn and wheat. A Cardinals fan who grew up listening to Harry Caray, Jack Buck and Joe Garagiola on the radio, Mr. Henry was 9 when he saw his first major league game at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis - the very city where he would see his own Boston Red Sox win the World Series in 2004.
"I love to listen to and interact with fans," Mr. Henry said.
"Perhaps not every fan can identify with me, but I think I can identify with most of them because I've been a passionate baseball fan all my life. I know that even the best baseball team cannot win every night, but I want to make sure our fans win every night - that they enjoy as many aspects of our game, our tradition, and the Fenway experience as they can. If they don't, I want to know why and see what I can do to address their concerns immediately. It is the New England fans and their representative media that have created the romance, mystique, and passion that we all feel when the words 'Boston Red Sox' are spoken."