Glazer family says it could pay cash for Baltimore football team

September 18, 1991|By Vito Stellino

The Malcolm Glazer family, the newest entrant in the National Football League expansion derby, says it has the financial clout to jump-start Baltimore's stalled franchise bid.

Glazer, the sole owner of a privately owned conglomerate, brings an asset that no other potential owner may be able to match: He says he has the liquid capital available to write a check for the full price of the team without selling any assets or borrowing money.

In their first interview since they notified the Maryland Stadium Authority last month that they planned to bid for a team for Baltimore, two of Mr. Glazer's sons, Bryan and Joel, said yesterday that the family has the cash available to buy the team even if it costs from $150 million to $200 million.

"We came into this with the assumption that it'd be a 100 percent cash deal," Bryan Glazer said.

That means if they get a team for Baltimore, it wouldn't be saddled with any debt service and would have the financial underpinning to be a successful team on the field.

Baltimore's expansion hopes had appeared to be sagging since New York businessman Robert Tisch pulled out of the Baltimore expansion derby earlier this year to buy half of the New York Giants. Mr. Tisch had the money and the personal contacts within the league to give him an edge in the race for a team.

The Glazers said their father knows many of the NFL owners -- although they declined to identify them -- from his various business dealings around the country.

Malcolm Glazer is the founder and sole owner of First Allied Corp., which has diversified holdings all over the United States. It is based in Rochester, N.Y., and Boynton Beach, Fla.

He was the highest bidder for Conrail at $7.6 billion in 1984 before the government decided not to sell the railroad. The sons declined to discuss the family's net worth.

Bryan and Joel Glazer are company vice presidents in charge of seeking acquisitions.

The NFL expansion application calls for one owner to have at least 30 percent of the team, but the NFL prefers sole owners so there isn't any potential for conflict among the group. The Glazers are the lone family-only group competing for a franchise.

The NFL hasn't announced the price or how the money must be paid for the expansion teams, but estimates have ranged from $125 million to $200 million.

The league announced yesterday that Baltimore was one of 11 cities to apply for an expansion team. The potential owners are to submit their bids with $100,000 checks -- only $50,000 is refundable -- by Oct. 1.

The other applicants were Charlotte, N.C.; Honolulu; Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; Nashville, Tenn.; Oakland, Calif.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Sacramento, Calif.; St. Louis and San Antonio.

Anchorage, Alaska; Birmingham, Ala.; Orlando, Fla.; Portland, Ore., and Fayetteville, Tenn., asked for applications, but decided not to file.

The league will now spend the next six months studying the applications before narrowing the field to an unspecified number of cities at the annual meeting in Phoenix next March.

The next question is whether the league will actually go ahead andname two teams by next fall to play in 1994. The league added the standard proviso that expansion could be delayed if the league decides that labor-management issues are an impediment.

But Raymond "Chip" Mason of the Greater Baltimore Committee said he now thinks it would be difficult for the league to pull back from expansion.

"I was a skeptic under 30 or 60 days ago, but on the course they're on right now, they've got to have a reason to back away," he said.

Mr. Mason said Baltimore's application was very impressive. "The book was just gorgeous," he said. "It's as nicely done as I could have imagined. The facts are good, the statistics are good, the demographics are good."

Herbert Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said a consultants' survey showed Baltimore could sell 199,000 tickets per game, 700 private suite and 8,000 club seats. A sellout would be about 65,000 seats, 100 private suites and 7,000 club seats.

He also said the consultants counted only people who were "extremely interested" or "would definitely purchase" tickets. If you counted the people who could "probably purchase tickets" or were only "very interested," you could sell 408,000 tickets a game, according to Mr. Belgrad.

The Glazers are one of five groups that have told the Maryland Stadium Authority that they plan to submit bids. The other four are Nathan Landow, a Bethesda real estate developer and Maryland Democratic Party chairman; Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, chairman of Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc., which operates a nationwide chain of clothing stores; Tom Clancy, an author of best-selling novels who lives in Calvert County; and the old group headed by former Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr, which is now called Maryland NFL Expansion Group Ltd.

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