Weinglass only wants NFL team if it's bound for Baltimore

March 04, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass said yesterday that he had looked into buying the New England Patriots, but decided not to pursue the matter because he didn't think he could move the team to Baltimore.

"I have no interest except if it's in Baltimore," said Weinglass, the chairman of Merry-Go-Round, a nationwide chain of clothing stores, who heads one of the three groups that filed $100,000 applications for an NFL expansion team in Baltimore.

"It's Baltimore or nothing for me. If they would have let me bring the team to Baltimore, I would have done it," Weinglass said.

Weinglass declined to say when he inquired about the Patriots or whether he talked to owner Victor Kiam or NFL officials.

"It was a while back, but they told me not to comment," Weinglass.

Weinglass also wished Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer well in his attempt to buy the team for about $110 million from Kiam.

"I hope he succeeds. I hope he gets the New England franchise. I think he'll be able to do something for that franchise," Weinglass said of Glazer. He said he expects Glazer to vote for Baltimore in the expansion derby if he gets the Patriots. Glazer heads another of the groups that applied for Baltimore. The third is led by author Tom Clancy.

The NFL hopes to keep the Patriots in New England because it represents the nation's No. 6 television market, and minority owner Fran Murray has said he'll block any move of the team before expansion.

If St. Louis gets an expansion team, Murray wants to sell his 49 percent interest to the majority owner and become one of the partners in the St. Louis franchise.

Glazer has not commented since he began negotiating with Kiam, so it's uncertain if he'll try to move the team after expansion if Massachusetts fails to come up with a new stadium to replace antiquated Foxboro Stadium.

"There's a 10-year lease [at Foxboro], and it's solid, so you can't get out of it," Weinglass said. There is some speculation, though, that it might be possible to buy out the lease at Foxboro.

Meanwhile, the Patriots talks are continuing. Murray's son, also named Fran, said yesterday that his father wasn't available for comment because he was in meetings all day to discuss various aspects of the proposed sale.

Weinglass also said he didn't think it would hurt Baltimore's expansion effort if Glazer bought the Patriots.

"I don't think he was being considered for Baltimore [by the league] anyway," Weinglass said. Weinglass said his ties to Baltimore and financial strength make him the logical owner of a Baltimore franchise.

Weinglass also said Baltimore will get one of the two franchises if the league goes ahead with plans to name two teams this fall to play in 1994.

"I think if they had to pick one team, Baltimore would get it. I think we're the front-runners," he said.

Weinglass said he felt that Baltimore is offering the owners the best deal, and he thinks they'll be impressed when the Orioles draw more than 3 million fans in their first season in the new park at Camden Yards. He said they'll like that a football stadium would be built next to the baseball stadium.

"I've touched base with a few owners, and the ones I speak to all seem to be favoring Baltimore. I really think Baltimore is going to get the team, because we have the potential to make the most money for the owners," he said, although he said he couldn't identify these owners.

He also scoffed at speculation that Baltimore is running third behind Charlotte, N.C., and St. Louis.

"I know you guys in the press copy one another and say it's Charlotte, St. Louis and Baltimore in that order. I don't know where you're getting that from. Nobody knows, including the 28 owners," he said.

Weinglass also said his unconventional lifestyle wouldn't prevent him from getting the team.

"I'm the chairman of a public corporation on the New York Stock Exchange. I know how to run a business. The only people who make an issue out of my jeans and ponytail are the Baltimore press," he said.

Weinglass plans to be at the NFL's annual March meeting in Phoenix in two weeks to lobby the owners for Baltimore. Clancy also plans to attend the meeting.

If the Glazers are at the meeting, they'll probably be announcing they've purchased the Patriots. The league hopes that Kiam gets the club sold by the time the meetings start.

The club is in such dire financial shape that the league fears that if Kiam hasn't sold it by then, the other owners may have to take control of the team to prevent a bank takeover or a bankruptcy proceeding.

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