George Norcross: The Man Who Destroyed Democracy

Underlings fear his wrath. Governors kowtow to his enormous political power. He might even have been prosecuted a decade ago if not for a bungled criminal investigation. But does all that make the new Inquirer owner, you know, a bad guy?

George Norcross welcomes me into his private office at Conner Strong & Bu­ckelew, his Marlton-based insurance firm. A table is laid out with fine china, silverware, fruit, raw vegetables and hummus. He takes me on a tour of the photographs lining the walls.

The images cover everything from his daughter Lexie’s graduation from NYU to family vacations, numerous political events, and old sepia-haunted photos of himself, as a boy, with his father. He spends several long minutes narrating the circumstances of each. His tone, at times, grows distant, as though the images on the wall have pushed him from the spot where he is standing to the moments they were taken.

The most moving, in terms of his own personal story, are the ones of him and his dad. In photo after photo, Young George g­azes with innocent eyes at some governor of New Jersey—Richard Hughes in 1966, Cahill in ’63, Meyner in ’62. His dad stands there, beaming, and Young George is learning that the hand of a state governor is accessible to him. The natural question, given how open he’s been, is if he might let me borrow and scan some of these photos to publish as part of the story. “No,” he says.

“Really?”

“Really,” he replies. “They’re off the record. This is all off the record.”

“Why?” I ask. He maintains a steady stream of unrelated patter, clearly sending me the signal to move on. But I don’t. This tour of his past, of photos capturing events we had discussed on the record, is to be put off the record?

“Yes,” he says again.

The moment strikes me as telling. And in the coming days, I decided to write about this exchange. For one thing, by the rules of journalism, a source can’t retroactively put quotes or a scene off the record. He needs to request such an arrangement before speaking with a reporter—and Norcross hadn’t. But I didn’t want to write about this in order to prove any point about journalistic rules. I wanted to convey this scene because of what I thought the moment suggested—that on some level, he needed to reach out and exercise control. He needed to express his power. He needed, in spite of feeling that he had been wrongly defined over the years, to stay, well, as unknown as possible. And as a consequence, he tried to wipe away even these photos that bring some sense of duty and romance to his story—that soften his sometimes brutal image.

The overall effect, not just of this episode but of spending 10 hours with George Norcross III, is that he is asking to be seen in the best possible light without ever really emerging from the shadows. And so, in the end, it might not matter how many medical schools he builds or charter schools he founds or media companies he sells or saves. Because what we really need from him is something deeper and more intimate than all these things.

We need him to step out. We need him to apologize—to openly acknowledge that, crime or no crime, he is guilty. He has done wrong. He has lorded over—whup! whup! whup!—and undermined the democratic process of an entire region.

But the best Norcross can muster is to say he is embarrassed he swore. For that reason, he will likely go on feeling that he can’t win.

Not in this lifetime.

Because without that apology—without him letting go of some of his power—this region’s relationship with him will remain tainted by an unquenched desire: to see George Norcross III climb onstage, stand before a podium, and take a deep and holy breath. To see George Norcross III hang his head—flashbulbs popping—and assume the position.

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  • $11996062

    Norcross should have been locked up years ago. I am not sure what the Authorities are building concerning this corruption. It has gone on long enough and Norcross is clearly still operating now in social media and Organized Crime. So when is the date and time for them to raid and sieze his assets and haul his flat behind off to prison.

  • $11996062

    The man is the son of Satan. He’s going to hell when he dies. God does not want him anywhere near heaven. He’s too evil.

  • RobertMStahl

    The point about rising out of the shadows, exactly! Thanks for this expose.

  • Joe A

    You all have nothing good to say…stay away

  • Amos2

    “What is so remarkable is that up close, the man behind all this drama is charismatic, warm, funny, a snazzy dresser. . . , ” and like all Dons, he just loves to shoot his cuffs.

  • FISHY

    And now Lewis Katz is dead. George Norcross made it happen.

  • gopherbroke707

    After reading a few recent comments I pondered whether anything further need be said. “Well they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night”. Adjust that geographically just a little. There you go…