If city's script needs revision, Hollywood's Lurie ready to step in

John Steadman

October 26, 1993|By John Steadman

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- As the National Football League prepared to select two cities in its expansion beauty contest, the name of another potential Baltimore team owner has evolved from the maze of machinations and intrigue that continues to build.

The possibility exists, depending upon what transpires in today's proceedings, that Jeff Lurie, a 42-year-old Hollywood producer and football fanatic, could emerge as an eleventh-hour entrant in the Baltimore picture.

It's believed his interest will not come into play unless the two on-the-record applicants, Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and Malcolm Glazer, are, for some reason, not approved.

The foremost consideration before Weinglass, Glazer or even Lurie can win the right of ownership is that Baltimore must first be one of the two cities selected by the owners for an expansion franchise.

It was learned, unofficially, that Lurie has been represented by Baltimore attorney Shale Stiller, who refused to comment.

Stiller stonewalled all questions and finally said, "Look, I'm a lawyer and believe in client confidentiality." Although Lurie may not get the call, especially if Glazer or Weinglass prevail, The Evening Sun has learned that the man visited Baltimore and talked with government and financial leaders.

Lurie, in late September, was reported to be looking at the New England Patriots with a view to making an offer. At the time his financial adviser was Ed Rudman, who has offices in Boston.

The National Football League has been aware of Lurie's interest since Victor Kiam had the Patriots on the market before selling them to the present owner, James Orthwein. He made inquiries and even met with commisioner Paul Tagliabue, yet nothing came close to a deal.

For at least two weeks it has been understood that a so-called "mystery" owner might come to the fore in Baltimore. Lurie, until now unidentified, fits the profile of what has been talked about -- a possible back-up owner if Baltimore determines it needs his presence.

The league, meanwhile, refuses to offer any enlightenment on the chance of this happening. It is trying to pick the two expansion cities from among Baltimore, St. Louis, Charlotte, N.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Jacksonville, Fla. However, at least one prominent club owner said he is going to support Lurie if Weinglass and Glazer fail to get the necessary backing.

There's another scenario that needs to be considered along with what must be categorized as Lurie's quiet on-deck availability. It has to do with the added possibility of a different investor getting involved.

It could be both important and exciting for Baltimore -- but, again, it will only happen if there's need for it to materialize.

The hometown investor's identity hasn't been disclosed but, like Lurie, he's said to be willing to join the Baltimore effort if needed. His reputation and credibility are considered exceptional but, again, his participation won't become a fact unless the alarm system sounds.

In a similar set of circumstances, you also can include the name of Al Lerner, the prominent Cleveland resident and banker who once worked in Baltimore and is a friend of Browns owner Art Modell.

There has been no desire on the part of the Maryland Stadium Authority or Gov. William Donald Schaefer to establish an alliance with other would-be owners, not even Lurie or Lerner, since they back both Weinglass and Glazer, but refuse to rank one over the other.

The rehearsals by the Maryland Stadium Authority, involving Schaefer, Mayor Kurt Schmoke and expansion co-chairmen Matt DeVito and Herb Belgrad, were completed last night. The Glazer family and Weinglass had a practice drill, too, as to what they will tell the NFL.

St. Louis' ownership plan still is being refined. Television networks would prefer St. Louis be selected because it has the 18th-sized market in the United States, four ahead of Baltimore.

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