The Robbies' family feud reaches epic proportions

PRO FOOTBALL

November 17, 1991|By VITO STELLINO

When the Robbie family in Miami celebrates Thanksgiving next week, it won't be a Norman Rockwell setting.

Instead of carving up the turkey, they could be carving up each other.

A bitter family feud among the nine children of Joe and Elizabeth Robbie has threatened the family's control of the Miami Dolphins and could lead to the club's being sold.

It started when Joe Robbie died Jan. 7, 1990. His will left control of the team to three trustees -- his sons, Tim and Dan, and daughter, Janet.

They infuriated their mother, Elizabeth, and their other six siblings by firing a brother, Mike, from the team's front office and selling half of Joe Robbie Stadium and 15 percent of the team to video magnate H. Wayne Huizenga, who got the expansion baseball team for Miami.

When Elizabeth died recently, she cut Tim and Janet out of her will and left only a small share to Dan and Lynn, a daughter who sided with the three trustees. Half her estate went to her grandchildren; the rest was divided evenly among the other five children.

Meanwhile, three of those five children have filed a lawsuit against the three members of the family controlling the team. They contend the other children are refusing to honor a family agreement that was signed a year ago to avoid a lawsuit.

There's also the question of the estate tax payments and when they will be paid.

Even before she died, Mrs. Robbie had demanded her lawful share of 30 percent of her husband's estate. That 30 percent still belongs to her estate.

If the two sides can't reach an agreement, a sale could be forced so her estate got the value of her 30 percent.

With the New England Patriots' finances already in a confused state, the last thing the NFL needs is another forced sale of a team. The league will be watching this family feud closely.

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As for the Patriots, Victor Kiam and minority owner Fran Murray reached an agreement last week to delay action on their financial problems until the season ends.

Meanwhile, a New York bank filed suit for $13.5 million it claims it is due from Murray, who is owed $38 million by Kiam for his 49 percent of the team.

The bank's action is likely to increase the pressure for a sale of the team. Since the Patriots are burdened with a bad lease on a bad stadium, buyers aren't likely to be lining up with huge offers.

If a fire sale is forced in the $100 million range, it could affect the selling price of expansion teams.

There's also the continuing speculation that Murray will make a deal for the league in return for an expansion franchise for St. Louis.

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As the 10 competing cities in the expansion derby prepare for their presentations in New York on Dec. 10-11, much optimism was being expressed in various cities last week.

While Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass was predicting Baltimore will get a team, Southern senators met in Washington with backers of the effort to get a team for Memphis, Tenn.

"We have, I think, the strongest position now, the strongest ownership group and . . . the best demographics," Sen. Albert Gore Jr., D-Tenn., said at a meeting of lawmakers from his state, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Memphis, stealing a page from Charlotte, N.C., now stresses that it is a regional franchise and could play games in Knoxville and Nashville.

In St. Louis, Jerry Clinton, one of the leaders of that group, denied that Malcolm Glazer, the Florida businessman who heads one of the three groups trying to get a team for Baltimore, has an edge because he has promised to write a check to get a team.

"There's more to obtaining and running a franchise than writing a check. I don't think that, in itself, is going to give anybody an opportunity to walk away with an expansion franchise," he said.

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Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, busy preparing Baltimore's presentation. He said the number of postcards requesting tickets for the exhibition game at Memorial Stadium next August has passed 20,000. For fans who want to get on the priority list before tickets go on sale, the address is: NFL Preseason Football Game, P.O. Box 1957, Baltimore, Md. 21203.

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The coaching derby:

The speculation in Tampa, Fla., now is that Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse will take another run at former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh, who turned down a $2 million offer last year. Walsh likes the attention, but he enjoys life in the broadcast booth and he's likely to turn Culverhouse down again.

Bill Parcells, former coach of the New York Giants, is next on the list. Parcells would likely take the $2 million, but the question is whether Culverhouse will go as high for him as for Walsh because he didn't run the whole show in New York the way Walsh did in San Francisco. Denver Broncos coach Dan Reeves also is rumored to be on the Tampa Bay list, but he's probably not available.

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What's next for Eric Dickerson?

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