Tisch tours downtown, looks toward NFL expansion

John Steadman

September 17, 1990|By John Steadman

As Bob Tisch turned into a weekend tourist and walked the streets of Baltimore, looking in at Harborplace, he was impressed with the nautical motif. Knowing the city's link to the world is involved with its maritime presence, he kept reflecting upon his most auspicious ambition -- the football team he hopes to see playing here in 1993.

Tisch is standing in line hoping to be recognized among a list of possible franchise owners if and when Baltimore is selected as one of two NFL expansion teams named for play in 1993. But, he says, "As the kids tell us, 'play it cool,' and that's precisely what I would like to do."

Tisch is a former U.S. Postmaster General and president and co-chief executive officer of the Loews Corp., which controls such diverse business operations as Lorillard Inc., CNA Financial Corp., Bulova Watch Co., and an extensive hotel chain. He has a pressing desire to own a pro football club -- in Baltimore.

His hotel holdings include the Summit and Regency in New York, the Monte Carlo in Monaco, LaNapoule in France and Harbour Cove in the Bahamas. They stretch to 17 different locations, including one of his latest additions, the Loews Annapolis. In his quest for an NFL team, Tisch has three partners, namely Furlong Baldwin, Morris Offit and Sig Hyman, with the promise more will be added at a later date.

"Let's get the primary objective accomplished, the awarding of a franchise," he said. "Then we can do all the other things that are necessary. Any such moves at this time would be premature and even rather presumptuous. We have to continue to be positive. I know of no one who speaks ill of Baltimore. The city has changed dramatically from when I first knew it."

Tisch remembers the wharf area of Pratt and Light streets. He knows of the decisions made by the former mayor, now Gov. William Donald Schaefer, to bring Harborplace to fruition. But he wanted to hear about the roles former mayors Theodore R. McKeldin and Tommy D'Alesandro, father and son, made to keep the effort alive until Schaefer arrived.

"Let me talk about something other than football," he said. "I have seen what Boston and New York City have done to bring about similar restorations but, from my view, I don't think they compare to Baltimore. This is better than what has been done anywhere else. I am impressed with the mood of Baltimore and seeing people enjoying themselves."

This would translate to an NFL club, too, which is supported by the record of a 35-year acceptance and the opinion of team owners he considers friends. Tisch was coming to Baltimore by train Friday afternoon and met Norman Braman, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, who is on the expansion committee.

He also had a chance to talk with Art Modell of the Cleveland Browns and Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers before another session of NFL discussion on expansion. Both were staying at one of his New York hotels. "No promises are ever made but I believe Baltimore is in the top tier of cities seeking teams. From what I continue to hear, Baltimore is close to No. 1 and I mention that with the hope none of us will become overconfident."

The other franchise-seekers include St. Louis, Oakland, Charlotte, Memphis, Jacksonville and Sacramento. The preliminary studies are ongoing with Tisch forecasting a decision by this time next year. He is aware commissioner Paul Tagliabue targeted 1993 as the starting date for expansion. What will it cost to become a member?

"I don't know. You tell me. I can only hazard a guess but that's all it would be. It'll be expensive. I believe Herb Belgrad, of the Stadium Authority, has done a good job for Maryland. He has handled himself well before the 28 owners. I realize the value of Gov. Schaefer. We have met and will get together for more conversation. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Baltimore business community has been effective in bringing the matter this far along."

Tisch, as to his financial resources, is listed as tied for 58th in the country with his brother, Larry, the chief of CBS. Each is credited with an estimated worth of $850 million. While week-ending in Baltimore, he went to Annapolis to meet some of his hotel executives and to take a trip on Chesapeake Bay, followed by a visit to the Naval Academy.

For the most part, Tisch, in a blue sport shirt and slacks, strolled downtown Baltimore unrecognized on his self-guided tour. "I don't honestly know of any negative standing in the way of Baltimore getting back in the NFL," he said. Spoken like a man smitten and caught up in a football love affair with Baltimore.

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