Schaefer assures NFL of support for owner groups

October 23, 1993|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer Staff writer Sandy Banisky contributed to this article.

Amid speculation that Baltimore's proposed NFL team owners met a lackluster reception by the league, Gov. William Donald Schaefer recently met privately with both men and conveyed his support of them to the NFL.

But, he said, if there's a problem, let him know.

Baltimore's NFL application is unique among the five finalists because it has two prospective owners vying for a team here: Florida-based corporate investor Malcolm Glazer and a group led by Maryland-based retail executive Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass.

Both men made presentations last month to committees of NFL owners, and, although their presentations have not drawn criticism, neither received rave reviews.

In a city grown edgy through a lengthy expansion process, that development set off alarm bells -- unwarranted, according to the NFL. "We're comfortable with them," said Atlanta Falcons owner Rankin Smith, a member of the expansion committee.

Schaefer met with both prospective Baltimore owners recently in his statehouse office and notified the league that he was happy with them. "I let the league know that as far as I am concerned they meet all the criteria," Schaefer said.

One NFL source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, "He said we feel good about these two groups and if you're not, let me know."

It's not clear who called the meetings. The Glazers say they did, to develop a rapport with the governor, but others say the governor initiated it directly or indirectly to judge for himself if there might be a problem related to the NFL bid.

"I think he wanted to clear the air. I think he wanted to be more comfortable," said one source familiar with the discussions.

Yesterday, Schaefer did not solve the mystery, saying, "I invited them in, and they also invited themselves in."

"Our two owners have gone through the mill, they are qualified. Glazer, he's a quiet man. He's a strong businessman. His three sons are just the opposite -- they are extroverted," Schaefer said.

"Boogie -- Mr. Weinglass -- was the same thing. He told me he was involved in a lot of charities," Schaefer said.

He met with Glazer and two of his sons Oct. 13 for about 45 minutes, said Joel Glazer, one of the sons.

"We just gave him our final update on where everything was. He has a very big interest in seeing Baltimore get a team," Joel Glazer said. He said they requested the meeting to get to know the governor.

Weinglass said he met with the governor Oct. 15 for about two hours, but he declined to discuss the topics other than one: their common high school alma mater, City College.

Schaefer then personally communicated with a high-level NFL official his support for both men, but said he would take steps if the league was not satisfied, according to sources.

"I think he wanted to reiterate that they are not tied to those two guys," said a source in the league.

While individual team owners may object to Glazer or Weinglass, as they might with any of the investors from any of the cities, there is not widespread dissatisfaction with them, the source said. The league has performed extensive background checks on both.

"From a financial and security standpoint the groups have passed muster. I don't think there is concern at this point that warrants another look," the source said.

Nevertheless, league officials referred a potential team owner to the city two weeks ago. Houston-based businessman Robert McNair has expressed an interest in owning a franchise, and he contacted St. Louis and Baltimore.

The NFL source, however, said the referral was not an expression of no-confidence on the part of the league toward the city's ownership groups. Rather, St. Louis is openly courting new investors and Baltimore's bid was filed on behalf of the city, not a particular investment group, meaning a stadium lease could be offered to anyone.

Baltimore's effort has been led by a committee made up of representatives of the Maryland Stadium Authority, Greater Baltimore Committee and the two ownership groups, both of which contributed $50,000 toward the effort.

Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said he provided financial information to McNair, but told him the city had two groups and was confident of their ability to perform the deal.

Meanwhile, there have also been reports of other investors coming forward to say they will own the team here if a problem emerges with either group. Belgrad said several remain in the wings, although he declined to identify them.

Several sources said Mercantile Safe Deposit & Trust Chairman H. Furlong Baldwin has made inquiries among associates to locate potential investors. He tried several weeks ago to form a group, according to one source familiar with the efforts.

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