Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer had a message yesterday for those who doubt he has the cash to write a $150 million check for an NFL expansion franchise for Baltimore.
"If they want to announce tomorrow that we've got it, we'll write the check tomorrow," he said.
Glazer then backed off that statement -- but just a bit: "It could be done very quickly, within a few days."
Glazer arrived in Baltimore yesterday with two of his sons, Bryan and Joel, for a meeting today with Gov. William Donald Schaefer to discuss their plans to bid for an NFL team.
Glazer, the sole owner of a private conglomerate called First Allied Corp., and his family are one of three groups that have filed the $100,000 application fee for a team in Baltimore. Author Tom Clancy, head of one of the other groups, has said even wealthy people don't have that much liquidity.
"We're the exception to the rule," Glazer said. "We have the cash in the bank, treasury securities, corporate bonds. We have the money that's available to write the check."
He said their government securities, such as treasury bills and their corporate bonds, "are salable immediately. They can be disposed of in a few days."
And if Glazer's offer to write a check for the franchise fee is music to the ears of NFL owners, so is his message to Baltimore and frustrated Colts fans who remember the bottom-line, hands-on style of Bob Irsay.
"We'd do like [we do] in every business we own," Glazer said. "We're in many different businesses, and we hire the very best talent we can get and let them run with the ball. We don't interfere. We let them do what they think is best, because they're living with it every day. We hire the best and let them do what they think is right."
When he was told that Irsay, who moved the Colts to Indianapolis in 1984, and Baltimore Orioles owner Eli S. Jacobs have given the fans the perception that they'd sacrifice winning for more profits, he said: "We'd rather win and make a little less money. It's very important to have a good team, especially a start-up team."
Glazer said his conservative investment philosophy of building huge cash reserves can be traced to his childhood in Rochester, N.Y., when his father sold his jewelry store and bought a wholesale jewelry company that was selling watch parts.
"The business he bought was a total disaster," Glazer said. "I was brought up in an era when we had nothing. I know that just by the signing of your name to a document you can go from rich to poor. The biggest conversation between my mother and father was: 'Do you have the money for the groceries? No, I don't have the money for the groceries. I'll have the money later.' So I know that you should have the money for the groceries."
Glazer was the fifth child and first son of a family of seven, five girls and two boys. He was 15 when his father died, and he started to help support his widowed mother and his 9-year-old twin brother and sister by working in the jewelry business. Glazer said his father left only $300 in a cigar box, and that was used to pay college tuition for one of his sisters.
Glazer said his formal schooling ended with high school.
"If you asked me, what did I enjoy better, being in school or working, working was 10 times more enjoyable, and there's no final exam," he said.
At 21, he said, he negotiated a contract at an Air Force base to repair watches. "That was my first business success," he said.
From there, he started to build an empire. In 1984, he led a group that bid $7.6 billion for Conrail before the government decided not to sell it.
Despite his success, Glazer is soft-spoken and seems unassuming. He used the word "lucky" three different times in describing how he built his empire.
He said he can't remember when he made his first million, but he said: "I always try to do a little better each year. That's my philosophy."
Glazer is not included in the Forbes magazine list of America's richest people, because so few of his holdings are in public companies.
"I have been pursued by Forbes, but I haven't given them information about myself," he said. "And it [their investments] is in private ownership, so it's difficult to track without us giving cooperation. I don't seek publicity."
But he didn't seem uncomfortable giving an interview, and he even poked fun at himself, saying he was usually one of the last players picked when sides were chosen for baseball games in grammar school.
"There was a girl named Nancy. Either she was last or I was last," he said with a smile.
Although he follows the Miami Dolphins because he now lives in Florida, Glazer said he's not the sports fan that his sons are.
"But I know about the misfortune that Baltimore went through in losing its team in the middle of the night," he said.
"I felt sorry for Baltimore, and I felt sorry for the fans," he said.
Now, he's confident he can bring a team back. He said his ability to write the check will be a key factor.