Former Mashantucket chairman returns to limelight

Richard A. 'Skip' Hayward, right, Mashantucket Pequot chairman from 1975 to 1998, vice chairman from 1999 to 2004, says hello to longtime friend Tonto Francis of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, after a news conference prior to the beginning of the 25th Anniversary Tribal Council Gala in the Celebrity Ballroom of Fox Tower in Mashantucket on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. Hayward's wife, Carol, looks on.  (Tim Martin/The Day)
Richard A. "Skip" Hayward, right, Mashantucket Pequot chairman from 1975 to 1998, vice chairman from 1999 to 2004, says hello to longtime friend Tonto Francis of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, after a news conference prior to the beginning of the 25th Anniversary Tribal Council Gala in the Celebrity Ballroom of Fox Tower in Mashantucket on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. Hayward's wife, Carol, looks on. (Tim Martin/The Day)

Mashantucket — Out of the public eye for more than a decade, Richard "Skip" Hayward, the former Mashantucket Pequot chairman, re-entered the picture Saturday night at an event at Foxwoods Resort Casino, the house he built or at the very least envisioned.

It was as if he'd never left — which, he later told a reporter, he never did.

"None of us would be here without Richard 'Skip' Hayward," said Felix Rappaport, the Foxwoods president and chief executive officer.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, joined Rappaport, Mashantucket Chairman Rodney Butler and about 40 guests at what seemed to amount to Hayward's reintroduction to the limelight. Other guests included G. Michael "Mickey" Brown, an early Foxwoods executive, and builder Charles Klewin.

The occasion's other, stated purpose was to call attention to the tribe's couldn't-be-better relationship with the state, which has reaped more than $4 billion in Foxwoods slot-machine revenues, thanks to a revenue-sharing agreement Hayward had a hand in forging.

"It's extremely important to me personally that the state has developed a 'peer' relationship with the Pequots," said Malloy, who cemented that relationship this spring by signing a law authorizing the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes to jointly pursue a third Connecticut casino off tribal land.

Southeastern Connecticut's casino-owning tribes are rising to the "significant challenge" they face as "gaming has become ubiquitous," the governor said.

Courtney, too, commented on the changes wrought since Foxwoods rose up out of the Ledyard woods.

Back in 1992, he said, gas was $1.05 a gallon, Jay Leno was taking over for Johnny Carson and Marisa Tomei was winning an Oscar for "My Cousin Vinny."

Foxwoods opened that February and has never closed since.

"No one could have predicted how successful Foxwoods would be," Butler said.

Nor could anyone have foreseen the other benefits of federal recognition, a status the Mashantuckets attained in 1983 via an act of Congress. It led to roads, infrastructure and housing, to educational and career development for tribal members, Butler said.

"None of it would have happened except for Skip," he added.

Hayward, who toiled at a shipyard and in construction and odd jobs before resurrecting his tribe became his focus in the 1970s, revealed an expansive knowledge of the history of Connecticut and his tribe, which he noted is marking its 350th anniversary this year.

"I'm proud of our history and that we were able to survive," he said. "If you don't want history to repeat itself, don't forget it."

He recalled that the Mashantuckets had attempted a number of ventures, including "maple syrup, cutting cordwood, hydroponic lettuce," before striking it rich with the high-stakes bingo hall they opened in 1986.

"We learned a lot along the way," he said. "We learned how to fail."

But, he said, the tribe managed to heed the admonishment of his grandmother, Elizabeth George, the tribal matriarch who died in 1983 at the age of 78.

"'Hold onto the land,'" he said she told him. "And that's what we did."

Butler was to present Hayward with the tribe's first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award at Saturday night's 25th anniversary gala in a Foxwoods ballroom.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

Richard A. 'Skip' Hayward, Mashantucket Pequot chairman from 1975 to 1998, vice chairman from 1999 to 2004, listens to his accomplishments as he is introduced and welcomed to the podium, as his wife, Carol, looks on during a news conference prior to the beginning of the 25th Anniversary Tribal Council Gala in the Celebrity Ballroom of Fox Tower in Mashantucket on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Tim Martin/The Day)
Richard A. "Skip" Hayward, Mashantucket Pequot chairman from 1975 to 1998, vice chairman from 1999 to 2004, listens to his accomplishments as he is introduced and welcomed to the podium, as his wife, Carol, looks on during a news conference prior to the beginning of the 25th Anniversary Tribal Council Gala in the Celebrity Ballroom of Fox Tower in Mashantucket on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Tim Martin/The Day)

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