Fran Murray, the minority owner of the New England Patriots, said yesterday that he will retain his interest in the club even if Victor Kiam sells the majority interest to Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer.
Murray, who owns 49 percent of the Patriots and is attempting to obtain an expansion team for St. Louis, said he will have the power to block any move of the Patriots until after the league adds two expansion teams.
Murray also said he didn't think it would be a setback for Baltimore's expansion hopes if Glazer buys Kiam's 51 percent interest in the Patriots and pulls out of the Baltimore expansion picture.
"I think all of us view ourselves as doing something for the cities we represent, but the fact is that the cities are far greater than any one of us and Baltimore has a wonderful application," Murray said.
Glazer heads one of the three groups that put up a $100,000 fee to apply for an NFL expansion team for Baltimore. The other two are headed by Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, the chairman of Merry-Go-Round, a nationwide chain of clothing stores, and author Tom Clancy.
Murray, who said he first met Glazer last Sunday, said he and Kiam are both in Palm Beach, Fla., this weekend, where Glazer, a Rochester, N.Y., native, has his home. Glazer runs his company, First Allied Corp., from an office in Boynton Beach, Fla.
Glazer, and his sons, Bryan, who lives in Chicago, and Joel, who lives in Washington, have been unavailable for comment on the negotiations.
Murray said he just happened to travel from an NFL owners meeting in Dallas on Thursday to a hotel in Palm Beach because he and his wife are celebrating their 27th wedding anniversary there. He said he didn't take part in yesterday's talks.
"Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction," Murray said when it was suggested that it was quite a coincidence for him to be in Palm Beach yesterday and not be involved in the negotiations.
He would say only that there was a "possibility" Kiam and Glazer met yesterday, but added that lawyers for both sides met yesterday in New York.
Kiam also has been unavailable for comment, though a source said he told the owners Thursday that he is negotiating with Glazer.
Although Murray said Glazer "appears to be serious," he stressed that it is not yet a "done deal" and suggested the Glazers still could return to the Baltimore expansion picture.
"I don't think that until it's a done deal that the Glazers should be viewed as completely removed from the Baltimore expansion effort," Murray said.
When Murray was asked why Glazer decided to bid for the Patriots, instead of attempting to get a team for Baltimore, he said: "I think it's simply a matter of New England presenting an extraordinary opportunity. They have a serious interest long-term being in this business. Opportunities are rare for ownership in our sport, so I think this in no way detracted from their enthusiasm for Baltimore."
rTC Noting that New York businessman Robert Tisch left the Baltimore picture last year to buy half of the New York Giants for $75 million, Murray said: "Baltimore has once again done something wonderful for the NFL. It breeds good owners."
Murray, who said he'll stay in Palm Beach until Monday or Tuesday, said he expects a resolution of the talks in the next week or two.
Murray said he will be able to block any proposed move out of New England before expansion.
"My partnership agreement provides me the right of agreeing to any move that would occur," he said.
Murray said he'd block a move because it would skew the expansion process if New England were left without a team. As the nation's sixth-largest television market, New England would become the nation's largest area without a team.
Murray hopes to be awarded an expansion team in St. Louis and then sell his interest in the Patriots to the majority owner.
Murray is owed $38 million for his 49 percent share of the team. His "put" for the money was due last October, but Kiam didn't have the money to pay him. Murray was then sued for $13.5 million by one bank.
If Kiam sells the team to the Glazers, Murray said, he can resolve his problems with the banks and delay his "put" until after expansion.
It's uncertain, though, what happens after expansion if Massachusetts hasn't come up with financing for a new stadium. Foxboro Stadium is in an inconvenient location and lacks such revenue-producing amenities as luxury boxes and club seats.
Murray predicted that money will be found for a new stadium. "I'm not a soothsayer. I can't predict everything that will happen forever," he said. "But I do know there's an awful lot of people prepared to work very hard to achieve a stadium in that market."
If Baltimore is bypassed in the expansion derby and Massachusetts fails to come up with the financing for a new stadium, it's easy to imagine Glazer moving the team to Baltimore. The city is the only one in the country that has the public financing approved for an open-air football stadium. It would be built next to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
That could all be a moot point, though, if Baltimore is awarded an expansion team.
Clancy, who does not have financing set, said he believes he will be awarded an expansion team. He said he's not particularly interested whether the Glazers are in the Baltimore picture.
"I wish them well, but my interest in the activities of others has always been minimal. My job is to be No. 1. If I'm No. 1, it doesn't matter what the other people will do," Clancy said.
Weinglass was not available for comment.
If Kiam hasn't sold his interest in the team before the annual meeting in Phoenix in two weeks, there'll be some sentiment for the league to take over the team.