Weinglass leaves Angelos group Drops O's pledge to focus on NFL

September 09, 1993|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Saying he wants to focus on his bid to bring an expansion football team to Baltimore, Leonard "Boogie"

Weinglass has taken himself -- and a pledge of $6 million to $7 million -- out of the incoming group of Orioles owners.

Weinglass said the decision was based solely on his concerns that some NFL owners might be put off by his plan to buy a minority share in the baseball team at the same time he is investing heavily in a football team.

"I want to be smart, and this is the smart thing to do," Weinglass said yesterday.

"I don't want to give the owners any doubts. I don't want them saying, 'How serious could he be about football when Boogie's tied into the baseball?' It might not be a positive thing, so why goof around?"

Weinglass said he hoped to play out the NFL scenario until the end of October, when league owners are expected to choose cities and owners for two new franchises. Weinglass, chairman of Joppa-based Merry-Go-Round Inc., leads one of two investor groups lobbying the NFL to expand to Baltimore. Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer heads the other.

If he isn't successful in landing the NFL team, Weinglass said he'll attempt to rejoin the Orioles group, with the blessing of the team's soon-to-be general partner, Baltimore lawyer Peter G. Angelos.

"I've spoken to Peter," Weinglass said. "He's a hometown guy and he'd really like to see us get a football team back, even though it might take some of the shine off the Orioles."

"If football doesn't work out -- though we both expect it will -- Boogie will be welcomed back with open arms," said Angelos, who will increase his contribution toward the $173 million purchase price to cover the loss of the millions being taken out by Weinglass. That could raise Angelos' stake in the team to more than $40 million, according to sources familiar with discussions among the Orioles' next owners.

Weinglass' decision to concentrate his efforts on football comes at a time when baseball owners are wrapping up their investigation of the would-be Orioles investors.

The pending sale probably won't come to a vote of the 28 owners before their quarterly meeting adjourns here this afternoon, but several officials said they expect it to happen within days.

A few documents, including ones that explain the partnership structure of the incoming group, haven't been reviewed by the ownership committee. But owners on that 10-member panel said they didn't foresee any problems.

"The people part is the hard part, and that's done, you bet," said Texas Rangers general partner George W. Bush, one of four AL owners studying the Orioles group.

Weinglass' decision to withdraw happened under odd circumstances. It came after Angelos had a chance meeting with two key strategists in Baltimore's NFL bid -- Herbert J. Belgrad, Maryland Stadium Authority chairman, and Matt DeVito, co-chairman of Baltimore's expansion committee -- at a Greater Baltimore Committee breakfast at the Centre Club yesterday morning.

Angelos asked about Baltimore's NFL hopes and the chances that Weinglass might be chosen as owner of the prospective football team. According to Belgrad, he expressed concern that some "critics" of Baltimore's football drive had been using Weinglass' role in the Orioles deal to cast doubts on his commitment to owning an NFL franchise.

Belgrad said the comments, which had filtered back to him from newspaper reporters around the country, were cause for worry, particularly if they began to erode support for Baltimore's bid among NFL owners.

So, Belgrad said he asked Angelos whether Weinglass' money was indispensable to the Orioles deal. Angelos said it wasn't, and quickly offered to release Weinglass from his financial commitment, according to Belgrad.

"It was proposed in a low-key, friendly way," Belgrad said of the suggestion that Weinglass be removed from the baseball picture. "If either Pete or Boogie felt it was not acceptable, it would not have gone any further."

The stadium authority has refrained from backing any of the prospective owners. His efforts yesterday were aimed at presenting the "two strongest ownership groups possible" to NFL officials, Belgrad said.

After meeting with Belgrad, Angelos called Weinglass yesterday morning and Weinglass agreed that he should forget about baseball, at least until the NFL owners have spoken.

"I'd been getting a little static from football," said Weinglass, who joined the baseball group in May. "It always would have been a notch toward the Glazers and against me, which I was aware of."

NFL owners have no formal rules prohibiting them from owning minority stakes in other sports teams. But at times, the practice has been discouraged, according to Weinglass, who said he had fielded questions about his Orioles involvement from, among others, Roger Goodell, NFL vice president in charge of expansion.

Neither Angelos nor Weinglass foresee problems with Weinglass rejoining the Orioles investors next month -- if the football bid fails.

"I have no reason to believe he would not be [approved] by the owners," Angelos said.

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