Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer pulled out of negotiations to buy the financially troubled New England Patriots yesterday, and decided to concentrate on pursuing an NFL expansion team for Baltimore.
Glazer heads one of three groups that have applied for a Baltimore expansion team. He said in a statement that "the prospect for franchise relocation was discussed" during talks with Patriots majority owner Victor Kiam.
Glazer's two sons, Bryan and Joel, declined to discuss specifics about the possibility of moving the team yesterday, but Bryan Glazer said: "We would never do anything without league permission. We looked at the game plan set forth by the NFL. The NFL sets the rules."
The comment appeared to indicate that the Glazers didn't want to fight the NFL on moving the Patriots the way Al Davis, the Raiders' owner, did when he won a court battle in 1982 to move the team from Oakland to Los Angeles even though the league voted against the move.
The league did approve the move of the Cardinals from St. Louis to Phoenix in 1988, but the league probably wouldn't approve
moving the Patriots from New England because it is the sixth-largest television market.
When the team's debt ceiling was raised to $45 million, Kiam agreed last year not to ask to move the team before the NFL's television contract expires after the 1993 season, but the league is likely try to stop the team from moving even then.
That would have left the Glazers with the alternative of moving the Patriots without league permission, and the Glazers evidently didn't want to go through that. It's unlikely the league could have stopped them in court -- the NFL failed to stop Davis -- but it would have been a messy situation.
The only other possibility would have been to buy the team and stay indefinitely in Foxboro Stadium, which would have meant financial losses for several years. The team gets no revenue from the stadium and must pay game-day expenses.
Even if financing for a new stadium is approved in New England, it probably will take at least five years to get it built.
The Glazers, though, did try to find ways to make the deal work financially.
"It was a tough deal to make, a very, very complicated deal," Bryan Glazer said.
Kiam wants $110 million for the team, including $45 million in debt and $38 million that is owed to minority partner Fran Murray.
With no other buyer on the horizon, the NFL might have to take over the team at the league meeting in Phoenix starting on March 15. The owners will be able to share the losses 27 ways and hope that a stadium will be approved in New England, which will make it easier to sell.
Although Murray said Wednesday that the negotiations were off, the Glazers made one last attempt to try to complete the deal before giving up. The Glazers apparently preferred their chances of getting an expansion team in Baltimore. The city has what New England lacks -- public financing in place for a new football stadium -- and Bryan Glazer said he still thinks Baltimore is the No. 1 expansion city. He said he doesn't think their unsuccessful effort hurt Baltimore's effort.
"Baltimore's chances are as good today as they were before. Baltimore has public funding for a new stadium and good potential ownership groups. That's the facts," he said.
Bryan Glazer also said he thought the good-faith attempt to buy the team shows the Glazers are major players in the expansion game.
"I've always thought we were major players," he said.
The Glazer sons scoffed at some public criticism. A USA Today columnist called them publicity seekers last week, and both the Boston Globe and The Washington Post quoted league sources as saying "Glazer has a history of chasing professional sports teams, then backing away at the last minute."
Joel Glazer said the family hasn't looked at any other existing franchise, although it did take a look at National League baseball expansion.
As far as seeking publicity, the Glazers point out that they didn't comment on the negotiations until they ended yesterday.
The Glazers said they'll be in Phoenix in two weeks to lobby for Baltimore. The heads of the other two groups trying to get a team for Baltimore, Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, the chairman of Merry-Go-Round, a nationwide chain of clothing stores, and author Tom Clancy, also plan to attend.