THE LAST MOGUL: The Unauthorized Biography of Jack Kent Cooke by Adrian Havill

THE LAST MOGUL: The Unauthorized Biography of Jack Kent Cooke

Email this review


Cool, dry, deadly biography of billionaire sportsman/power-broker Jack Kent Cooke, by book-rookie Havill, former president of a public-relations firm. Starting from barely middle-class origins in Hamilton, Ontario, Cooke displayed a remarkable range of abilities and enough confidence in them more or less to ignore school. Good-looking, feisty, charming, with real musical and athletic talent, the young Cooke, Havill makes clear, was also driven and daunting. The life of this man who has revered F. Scott Fitzgerald sparkles like a Gatsby party crowded with the rich and famous--Leslie Stahl, Marion Barry, Carl Rowan, Vice-President Quayle, Larry King, Senator John Warner, Michael Milken, and others--but the grace and forbearance of Cooke's literary hero is missing. Aside from brilliant success with basketball's L.A. Lakers (Cooke signed both Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Magic Johnson) and football's ever-powerful Washington Redskins, the Cooke myth seems to be compounded of tightfisted deals, beginning with radio in Canada and expanding relentlessly south in a dizzying spiral of real estate, cable TV, newspapers, and junk bonds. To the Cooke portrayed here, money is purely and simply power. Absolute loyalty is required: members of the Redskins organization were forbidden to attend the funeral of the previous team owner, Edward Bennett Williams, who was out of favor with Cooke when he died. Sons were required to side against their mother in a divorce proceeding--a mother who repeatedly attempted suicide in her apparent need to escape; a son who hedged was disinherited. Another wife, required repeatedly to abort Cooke's children, was banished when she finally refused. Havill sails very close to the wind in this grim, grotesque, well-documented tale of an unmellowed capitalist whose need to control has extended even to a retroactive name change for his father--to whom Cooke gave his own (invented) middle name.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: St. Martin's