That time Walt Disney's oppo researchers claimed his business rival was laundering money for Jimmy Hoffa

Len Testa writes, "Back in the early 1960's, Walt was interested in buying and developing the Mineral King ski area in California, which was being put up for sale by the U.S. government. Another potential bidder on the project was industrialist Robert Brandt, husband of Hollywood actress Janet Leigh."

Brandt and Leigh were Democrats and thought by Disney, a Republican, to be friendly with the higher-ups in Lyndon Johnson's administration.

Disney feared that might sway the decision. So in 1965 he asked his team to look into Brandt's background to see if there was anything that might disqualify Brandt from doing business with the government.

Their findings are below. They say that Brandt's company was a front for "persons with underworld connections in the East" - specifically naming Jimmy Hoffa - to launder money. They also go into detail about Brandt's earlier marriage and divorce.

My favorite part of the memo is the end of the page 1 second graf to Walt, which offers to leak this information to "reporters or publications to begin publicizing these connections." I get this mental image of Walt sitting in his office saying "Nice business you got here. A shame if something should happen to it."

Anyway, these docs are all publicly available at the Buzz Price archives at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando. That's where I found them.

Docs from Harrison Buzz Price Papers, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Central Florida Libraries, Orlando, Florida.

Notable Replies

  1. I get the feeling that there is some sleaze underneath most rocks of institution, if we care to look.

  2. Well, Fiddle Dee Dee!

    (but also curious who won the bidding war)

  3. According to Alexandra Vicknair's thesis, as of 2013, there was a big public fuss anyway, Disney lost interest, and the Carter admin included it in its grand parks'n'rec deal.

  4. Twenty pages in, and this is equally as interesting as the spying.

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