Is Jacobs about to sell O's? Orioles owner believed pondering bid from Texas group

December 22, 1992|By Mark Hyman and Jon Morgan | Mark Hyman and Jon Morgan,Staff Writers

A year after planting a for-sale sign on his baseball team, Eli S. Jacobs appears closer to selling the Orioles.

Team officials remain silent on the subject. But speculation has intensified this week that Mr. Jacobs is deep in talks with William O. DeWitt Jr., a Cincinnati oil executive who is a limited partner in the Texas Rangers.

Mr. DeWitt is making his bid with about six other investors, including several who own shares of the Rangers, according to sources familiar with the talks. Orioles president and minority owner Larry Lucchino also would have a share of the team in the DeWitt group, the sources added.

Mr. Lucchino could not be reached for comment.

Mr. DeWitt declined to discuss negotiations or to confirm his interest in the Orioles. "I am happy with my Rangers investment. Beyond that, there's not much to say at this time," he said by telephone yesterday.

But according to one report, Mr. Jacobs already has agreed to sell the team to a group including Mr. DeWitt. Sportscaster Tom Davis of WQSR-FM reported yesterday that Mr. Jacobs has accepted the DeWitt offer, which he said is for $150 million, including $30 million in debt assumption.

Mr. Jacobs, who is an 87 percent owner, paid $70 million for the team in 1990. He initially priced the Orioles at $200 million.

Mr. Jacobs ignited speculation about a possible sale in May 1991 when he said he'd be willing to consider offers for the team. In recent months, he is known to have held talks with the DeWitt group and with Baltimore clothing executive Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass.

Mr. Weinglass, who assembled an investment group to pursue an NFL expansion franchise in Baltimore, is also in the running to buy the team, but one source familiar with those negotiations said they have cooled over the past week, apparently because another investor is close to striking a deal.

Mr. Weinglass refused to comment but issued a statement Friday, saying he and his investors are "actively pursuing their efforts to bring a National Football League franchise back to Baltimore."

Mr. DeWitt is no stranger to baseball management. He is the son of the late William O. DeWitt Sr., who was president of the Cincinnati Reds from 1961 to 1966 and also was an owner of the St. Louis Browns.

Talk of a sale comes as Mr. Jacobs is attempting to restructure his business empire. In July, he notified some creditors that he would not be making interest payments on his debts.

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