Triple option too much for NFL?

October 02, 1991|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Evening Sun Staff

When Nathan Landow abandoned his campaign for an NFL expansion team last week, the Bethesda real estate developer lateraled his support to Malcolm Glazer and urged other candidates to do likewise.

So far, though, no one has heeded Landow's advice.

And when ownership applications arrived at NFL headquarters in New York yesterday, Baltimore was playing the trifecta with novelist Tom Clancy, clothing magnate Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and Glazer, the president, chief executive officer and sole shareholder of First Allied Corp.

All three groups have submitted a filing fee of $100,000 to the NFL, of which only $50,000 will be refunded.

The question of whether Baltimore's best interests are served by a triumvirate of candidates -- or by one single investor -- remains at the core of the expansion issue.

It is a sticky question.

The cities of Charlotte, Memphis and St. Louis, for instance, are identified with one primary investment group.

But Baltimore has never aligned itself with any group, principally because that was then-commissioner Pete Rozelle's recommendation at the beginning of the expansion process.

Herbert Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, says he still believes three is the way to go, at least for now.

"The fact three groups are ready to risk [losing] $50,000 on Baltimore is a compliment to us," Belgrad said. "If people are confident we're one of two cities to be picked, I consider that an advantage."

Belgrad then offered some compelling reasons for keeping status quo. He pointed out that the stadium authority resisted the temptation to align itself with New York businessman Robert Tisch when he expressed an interest in an expansion team here. Tisch, however, bought 50 percent of the New York Giants last February.

"Had we aligned with Tisch and discouraged anyone else, we'd have been left without an ownership group," Belgrad said.

Similarly, Belgrad walks gingerly around Landow's suggestion the authority throw its weight behind Glazer's proposal.

The situation that is unfolding in New England with Patriots owner Victor Kiam bears watching, said Belgrad. According to a buyout agreement he has with minority partner Fran Murray, Kiam is obligated to pay Murray $38 million by Oct. 10. Should Kiam default on that obligation, Murray would gain control of the team and it probably would be sold.

Murray, a partner in the proposed St. Louis ownership group, says he wants to divest himself of his interest in the Patriots to devote his attention to the expansion bid.

Might the Glazers be interested in the Patriots?

"Our goal now is to bring a team to Baltimore," said Brian Glazer, son of Malcolm and vice president at First Allied. "We think the Maryland Stadium Authority is doing an excellent job. Our goal is to get a team to Baltimore."

Clancy, meanwhile, agreed that reducing the field to a single owner represented a dangerous roll of the dice.

"The drawback is if you put all your eggs in one basket, what if it's a rotten basket?" Clancy asked.

Belgrad says he has asked the NFL both verbally and in writing for guidance on the question of ownership, but has not had a response.

An NFL spokesman had no comment this week when asked about the number of prospective owners.

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