Venetoulis joins Clancy's NFL team

John Steadman

January 26, 1993|By John Steadman

Another player of prominence -- not from the football field, but the political arena -- has joined the Tom Clancy/Jim Robinson team that is in the race to secure a National Football League expansion franchise for Baltimore.

Ted Venetoulis is to serve as an adviser, but for the present will not be an actual investor. He will, no doubt, be utilized by Clancy and Robinson for his political expertise and business acumen in the event they are chosen as the winning Baltimore entry in the expansion derby.

Two other groups bidding for expansion consideration, as Baltimore prepares to make its presentation to the league this spring, are Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and Malcolm Glazer. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue wants to add two new teams, possibly for the 1994 season, and has said the ownerships will be announced simultaneously when the locations are decided.

Baltimore is included along with St. Louis, Charlotte, N.C., Memphis, Tenn., and Jacksonville, Fla., in the quest for the NFL expansion nod. It's anticipated that some study of expansion will be taken up by league owners at their March meeting and then, possibly, a verdict made when they gather again in late May in Atlanta.

The gregarious Venetoulis, a former chief executive of Baltimore County and a one-time candidate for governor, will be attending the Super Bowl on Sunday as a guest of Robinson, a friend of long standing. It will be a first-time experience.

Earlier, Clancy and Robinson announced that John Unitas, Hall of Fame quarterback, would be associated with their effort. But Unitas is being utilized for football purposes and to talk with club and league executives in an effort to convince them Baltimore is the place to be.

"I will be at the Super Bowl as a guest of Jim Robinson," commented Venetoulis. "My role originated because of my relationship with Robinson, which started back when I was county executive and he needed help for obtaining property to expand his business. At the time, he was receiving automobiles that had been shipped into the port of Baltimore and making them ready for distribution."

Venetoulis is currently owner of the Orioles' Gazette, a monthly publication that has been well-received by the baseball public, and a political analyst for WBAL-TV. He also played a role in negotiating for the return of Colts' memorabilia when the team defected to Indianapolis in 1984.

Before that move transpired, he had been the one who made a deal with Robert Irsay, the Colts' owner, to create a practice facility in Baltimore County. It was through Venetoulis' interest that the complex was built in Owings Mills after a survey of Baltimore failed to offer a suitable location.

Robinson, meanwhile, has gone on to become a significant maker of films as the head of Morgan Creek Productions in Los Angeles. Two of his company's recent releases scored impressively -- "Robin Hood," featuring actor Kevin Costner, and "Last of the Mohicans."

The Robinson/Clancy alignment features two Baltimore-born individuals. Robinson lives in Lutherville but commutes to California on a weekly basis. Clancy resides in Southern Maryland, where he's one of the world's most widely acclaimed authors.

"I want to reiterate," said Clancy, "that I am not, am not, interested in buying the Baltimore Orioles' ballclub. An investment banker in Wilmington said he heard my name was linked to such a transaction but there's not an element of truth to it. My interest in sports is seeing the NFL back in my hometown."

Clancy, although he was present last year in Minneapolis, will refrain from attending the Super Bowl this year. He's currently in the midst of writing another novel -- one that established a world-record advance of $17 million.

With a touch of facetiousness, he said he would someday like to think he could write a story about how it feels to own a football team.

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