Lot #3042
Howard Hughes Handwritten Notes

"If Sonnett finds out we are surveilling him it would be the end of everything"—cloak-and-dagger content from the TWA v. Hughes lawsuit

Estimate: $3000+

Description

"If Sonnett finds out we are surveilling him it would be the end of everything"—cloak-and-dagger content from the TWA v. Hughes lawsuit

Intriguing unsigned handwritten notes by Howard Hughes, one page both sides, 8.5 x 14, November 13, 1965. The uppermost portion is written in a secretarial hand, "From Maheu," referring to ex-FBI and CIA operative Robert H. Maheu, who acted on behalf of Howard Hughes to thwart blackmailers, spy on enemies and ingenues, and conduct other covert business: "As of yesterday Sonnett was due to arrive in N.Y. today. He doesn't know the exact time. Davis is standing by for your call. He didn't think much of the idea of calling Sonnett on an emergency basis, but will do whatever you desire."

Below, Hughes jots his notes on the matter: "& Cook. Of the importance I placed on this an exact visual fix on now. We take a definite penalty when we call. We lose a position. I must have an absolute fix-Apartment in N.Y. Airport. Home in up-state N.Y., Westchester, or Connecticut. Golf Club or what have you. We lose trading positions in the biggest business deal in history of industry in U.S. and the world. We will take this loss to talk to him not to find out he is not home or at the number we call. Please tell Mayheu I am not trying to blame anyone for anything, but I thought Mayheu understood everything in this message. If Sonnett finds out we are surveilling him it would be the end of everything." In fine condition.

These fascinating notes evidently reveal that Hughes was having John Sonnett, counsel for Trans World Airways, tailed and surveilled. In 1962, Sonnett had filed a complaint on behalf of TWA, charging Hughes with violating antitrust laws by requiring that the airline he partially owned purchase aircraft from Hughes Aircraft Co. The legal battle touched off by the suit was one of the most momentous and enduring in American business history. As part of his strategy, Sonnett attempted to have subpoenas served on Hughes personally, and applied considerable pressure to determine his exact whereabouts. The 'Davis' mentioned in these notes undoubtedly refers to Chester C. Davis, who represented Hughes in TWA v. Hughes. This is a particularly important piece of primary material with great cloak-and-dagger content, shedding light on the reclusive billionaire and one of the most significant court battles involving his myriad interests.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Remarkable Rarities
  • Dates: #638 - Ended June 23, 2022