Include the influential name of James G. "Jim" Robinson, Baltimore-born movie producer, as an important new member of the ownership team Tom Clancy is quietly organizing in his effort to obtain an expansion football franchise for Baltimore. The Robinson addition is considered a major development, both monetarily and from a prestige viewpoint.
Attorney David Cohan, with Clancy and Robinson unavailable for comment, confirmed the agreement and said the National Football League has been given the same information via formal application -- specifically that a partner, Robinson, has joined with Clancy.
"It is an excellent arrangement," said Cohan. "This means two men of outstanding reputations and fiscal integrity, both in the business community and entertainment industry, are working together. It's a momentous plus to have two Baltimore men, both possessing international recognition, carrying the ball for the city and state."
Two other ownership entities also are vying for the NFL's affections in the expansion sweepstakes, namely groups headed Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and Malcolm Glazer. Three weeks ago, Clancy admitted, "Jim Robinson is the key man I want with me and I hope it comes to fruition since we've talked about it over the last five or six months."
Clancy did not attend the NFL ownership meeting two weeks ago in California but sent his regrets, explaining he had earlier promised to deliver commencement addresses at Wake Forest University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Critics of Clancy's bid to gain an NFL club for Baltimore said earlier that even though he was wealthy (estimated in the range of $40 million) he didn't have the overall financial worth to swing a deal the magnitude of what an expansion club would cost.
The partnership with Robinson, as Clancy continues to hold the majority ownership role, strengthens his position considerably. Robinson, who lives in Towson, graduated from Dundalk High School in 1955, attended the University of Maryland, and is chairman of one of Hollywood's leading independent studios, Morgan Creek Productions.
The company, mainly because of Robinson's presence, was backed by a $126 million line of credit from Signet Bank and, additionally, entered into a $100 million financing agreement with Nomura Babcock, a partnership of Nomura Securities of Japan and Bacock & Brown of San Francisco. Meanwhile, Robinson continues to reside in Towson with his wife and five children.
He tries to avoid attention and is reluctant to grant interviews. Cohan said he and others in the Baltimore business community hold him in the highest of respect because of the way he has
adroitly handled his life -- heading up a movie studio and also a Baltimore-based company, Premier Automobile Services Inc. -- while maintaining a low profile.
In 1988, Robinson, who owned 93 Subaru dealerships in the Midwest, sold the operation and earned enough from the transaction to invest $80 million in the film company, which ultimately produced and released such titles as "Robin Hood," "Skin Deep," "Dead Ringers" and "Major League," among others, for both domestic and worldwide distribution.
Although not by design, the combination of Robinson and Clancy unites a producer and an author, both Baltimore-born and educated. Clancy, writer of seven straight best-sellers, has had two of his books made into movies, with more to come, and also has lately agreed to develop a separate script that would be utilized exclusively for film purposes.
The NFL, through commissioner Paul Tagliabue, has taken care of all the prerequisites for expansion. However, the league lacks a labor contract with the NFL Players Association and this is considered a possible detour, at least a delay, in the process of bringing it about. A federal court is scheduled to begin hearings in the case that opens June 15 in Minneapolis to take up legal issues that could postpone the naming of two expansion cities via the September timetable.
Meanwhile, Clancy, who so far has invested $250,000 of his own money in the preparation, and Robinson are firm in their endeavor and may even add other names to their group. But first Baltimore must be one of two cities, in a list that comprises St. Louis, Charlotte, Jacksonville and Memphis, to be granted NFL membership.
When that happens the next step for the league is to further examine potential owners of such franchises. Clancy and Robinson will be strong players.