Nathan Landow, the Maryland real estate developer heading one of the five groups seeking to own an National Football League expansion team in Baltimore, withdrew his group from the race yesterday and threw support to Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer.
Mr. Landow also urged the other groups and Maryland's political and business leaders to unite in support of Mr. Glazer because Mr. Glazer has the best chance of getting a team for Baltimore.
Mr. Landow said he and the other members of his group, Maryland businessman Herbert Haft and Washington lawyer Vernon Jordan, the former head of the Urban League, had been prepared to put up $100 million in cash to bid for the team and to finance the rest.
But Mr. Glazer, sole owner of First Allied Corp., has said he has the cash available to buy the team even if it costs $200 million.
"We all recognize that cash is what matters most to the NFL," Mr. Landow said in a statement sent to Mr. Glazer and to Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority.
The NFL has not yet set the price or the terms for the two expansion franchises that are scheduled to begin play in 1994, but estimates haveranged from $125 million to $200 million.
Mr. Landow also said in the statement that for Baltimore to get ateam, "It is critical that the city unite behind a single ownership -- group. Competition among prospective owners would inevitably hobble the city in its larger and more important contest with the other 10 cities seeking a franchise."
In Charlotte, N.C., St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn., which are often rated as the leading contenders for expansion franchises, one ownership group is bidding for each franchise. Jacksonville, Fla., another leading contender, is scheduled to announce its ownership group Tuesday.
Mr. Landow's withdrawal leaves four groups competing for a Baltimore team. And the three groups besides Mr. Glazer's that are still in the race -- Maryland NFL Expansion Group Ltd., and groups headed by Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and author Tom Clancy -- said they plan to file the $100,000 application fee by the Tuesday deadline for owner applications.
Mr. Weinglass, chairman of Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc., said it was too early to decide how much cash his group will put up. He did agree that everyone in Baltimore should get behind one group. But hesaid that group should be his because it is made up mainly of Baltimoreans.
"It'd be a crime for Baltimore to have outside ownership," Mr. Weinglass said from his home in Aspen, Colo. "We're true Baltimoreans."
Mr. Weinglass said his group will include Mike Sullivan, the chief executive officer of Merry-Go-Round; Richard Pearlstone, who has real estate investments; E. Douglas Carton, the founder and president of C-Mart; David Bernstein, chief executive officer of Duty Free International; and filmmaker Barry Levinson.
Phyllis Brotman, a Baltimore ad agency executive and spokeswoman for the Maryland NFL Expansion Group, said her group was still in negotiations with a major Maryland investor but planned to go ahead and file. She said the $100,000 filing fee was already in escrow.
Mr. Clancy, speaking from his home in Calvert County, stressed the importance of Baltimore ownership. He said he had already filled out his application and written the check and was confident he would get the team.
"I don't know any other way to tell you that I'm dead serious about this," Mr. Clancy said. "I'm not in the habit of failing, and I don't intend to fail in this."
Mr. Clancy declined to identify the other members of his group.
Mr. Glazer's son Bryan, a vice president of First Allied Corp., said that his family would eventually become a local group because he and his brother Joel (also a First Allied vice president) intend to live in Baltimore if they get a team.
"Since we're still relatively young [Bryan is 26 and Joel is 24], we'd be making a life for ourselves in Baltimore with our families," Bryan Glazer said.
Mr. Landow said that if any problems arose with the Glazer bid, "our group stands ready, willing and able at any time to step on the field, pick up the ball and bid for the franchise."
But he also said that he did not anticipate Mr. Glazer's having any problems with his bid.
"When you look at the big picture, it's the right thing to do," Mr. Landow said of the move to support the Glazers. "You have to think of what's best for Maryland. We know a good deal when we see it. It puts Baltimore on a level playing field with the other cities [that have one group]. Everything has to work right for Baltimore. The competition is keen and tough."
Mr. Landow said that Mr. Glazer told him he appreciated the support. "We stand ready to help in any way possible," Mr. Landow said.
Mr. Landow's help could prove critical. As head of the Maryland Democratic Party, he has important political contacts around the nation, in and out of football. It also couldn't hurt that one member of his group, Mr. Jordan, is a friend of NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
Eleven cities filed applications for NFL expansion teams by the Sept. 16 deadline, and the NFL is now waiting to see how many ownership groups will file by next Tuesday's deadline. Only $50,000 of the $100,000 filing fee is refundable.