Author Tom Clancy filed his application for ownership of an NFL expansion franchise in Baltimore this week, playing his role as if it came straight from one of his spy novels.
"I'm treating this as classified information," Clancy said of his application. "I do not talk about works in progress."
So, we don't know who Clancy's partners might be, and we don't know how much financial clout he has. But when the NFL announced yesterday it had received ownership applications from 10 groups of investors, we learned who his competition will be.
The names were familiar ones for the most part -- Jerry Richardson in Charlotte, Jim Orthwein in St. Louis, William Dunavant Jr., in Memphis and Tom Petway in Jacksonville.
Of the 11 cities that filed community applications last month, all but three met Tuesday's ownership deadline. Those three -- Honolulu, Nashville and Raleigh-Durham -- remain candidates nevertheless, the league said.
Of the eight cities that did file ownership applications, Baltimore was the only city with more than one entry. In the running with Clancy for a team here are businessmen Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and Malcolm I. Glazer.
One prominent name that was missing from St. Louis' application was Francis W. Murray, the minority owner of the New England Patriots and a force in the Missouri bid. He was left off the application until he can sell his Patriots interest to majority owner Victor K. Kiam. In a buyout agreement between the two, Kiam has until Oct. 10 to pay Murray $38 million or lose control of the team.
Jerry G. Clinton, a St. Louis businessman and member of the ownership team with Orthwein and Walter Payton, said the NFL has asked Murray for a six-month extension on that deadline and that Murray was in the process of making a decision.
"We've drafted an agreement that will allow Fran to rejoin us once his ties with the Patriots are severed," Clinton said. "This in no way disrupts our application. Our partnership is strong, stronger as a group than as individuals.
"It's Fran's intention to come back at the earliest possible time."
St. Louis, Baltimore and Charlotte are generally regarded as the three front-runners for two expansion teams that tentatively will play in the 1994 season. And while both St. Louis and Charlotte are represented by just one ownership group, Clinton suggested that three in Baltimore could be a red flag to the NFL.
"It would seem to me if you had three factions coming from one source, there must be some disagreement between the factions," he said. "If you consolidate, you would have a much stronger base in the community."
There does not appear to be a consolidation in sight in Baltimore, however.
Weinglass said Clancy has rejected an offer to join forces.
"Mr. Clancy said he'd do anything to bring a team back to Baltimore," Weinglass said. "I offered Mr. Clancy a chance to join me, but he said [he will] only if he can run the football team. He turned that offer down."
Clancy declared himself the front-runner of the threesome, saying, "I'm not looking back. As far as I'm concerned, I am [in front]. I imagine the others feel the same way."
Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said he is not concerned about the early posturing of the candidates. He admitted, however, that divisiveness is something Baltimore must avoid.
"I think what this amounts to is self-promotion, marketing, puffing," Belgrad said. "Any time you're in competition, you're going to do that.
"But it'd be counterproductive for groups to try to gain advantage by being critical. Their primary responsibility is to promote their own strengths and merits, not tear down the other groups."
Clancy and Weinglass, both of whom have strong local ties to Baltimore, agree on one thing: they both think the owner should be a local person. Glazer, who owns First Allied Corp., is a Florida resident, although several members of his family would relocate here if given a team.
Although he lives in Aspen, Colo., Weinglass said that between himself and partner Richard Pearlstone, they have pumped $15 million into local charitable organizations in the last 10 years. "I'm currently doing so at a rate of half a million a year," Weinglass insisted.
Among the organizations Weinglass said his group supports are the National Aquarium, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Loyola College, Cystic Fibrosis, Center Stage, Meals on Wheels, United Way, the Ronald McDonald House, Johns Hopkins University, the St. Vincent Center for Abused Children and the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
"It's not fair for someone to step into Baltimore who's never given to our community like I have, and Mr. Pearlstone has and Mr. [Mike] Sullivan has," said Weinglass, who was born and grew up in Baltimore.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said local ownership was not listed among the criteria for ownership. "But it's safe to say it would be considered a very attractive factor in many circles in the league," Aiello said.