Representatives of the St. Louis NFL bid, which must sell its share of the New England Patriots before buying a new team, contacted potential Baltimore football investor Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass as recently as a month ago about taking over the Patriots.
Weinglass said he wasn't interested, but the incident highlights a potential trouble spot in St. Louis' effort to land an expansion team: the Patriots must be sold first.
St. Louis and Baltimore are among five cities competing for two NFL expansion teams scheduled to be awarded this fall. St. Louis, the biggest market of the five, is generally regarded as a leading candidate -- as long as two of its investors, James Busch Orthwein and Fran Murray, can sell the Patriots.
Weinglass, leader of an investor group that also includes movie maker Barry Levinson, said he talked with NFL officials last year about buying the Patriots and was approached again about a month ago.
"I'm just not interested. It's Baltimore or nothing," said Weinglass, who also is chairman of the Joppa-based Merry-Go-Round Enterprises, a retail clothing chain.
Murray said he spoke with Weinglass about buying the Patriots at the league owners meeting in May.
"He said he was only interested in owning a team in Baltimore," Murray said.
He said he was not aware of Weinglass' being approached in the last month, but added that representatives of his have contacted many people with an interest in owning a football team.
Weinglass has made a good impression on NFL officials, Murray said. "There's a lot of interested parties, but there are no buyers right now," he said.
Weinglass is one of at least three potential investors with Baltimore ties who have been approached over the past year about buying the Patriots.
Weinglass and Malcolm Glazer, who also wants to become owner of an expansion franchise here, inquired about the Patriots a year ago when then-owner Victor Kiam was facing deadlines related to multi-million-dollar loans.
Weinglass said he would be interested only if he could move the team to Baltimore. The NFL said he could move it after three
years only if the team had failed to win a new stadium -- widely viewed as a must for the team to succeed financially, Weinglass said.
Glazer, who at times last fall appeared close to reaching an agreement to own the Patriots, said in a recent interview that there were a "myriad of problems" with the franchise that made the deal unworkable.
Last year, the NFL also contacted Edwin Hale, chairman of Baltimore Bancorp and owner of a truck and barge company, Murray said. Hale, who owned the now-defunct Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team, had expressed interest in owning a football team but never submitted a bid and told Murray he was not interested.
Murray said he remains confident that the Patriots can be sold and that the issue will not hamper St. Louis' bid for an NFL team.
L "It's just not an issue. There's a line of buyers," he said.
Orthwein's decision last year to buy out Kiam helped the league keep a team in a major market. Orthwein said at the time that he intended to put the team on solid financial footing and then sell it to pursue his St. Louis effort.