Tisch: Strong owner would help

November 03, 1993|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

At least one NFL owner -- one who once led an effort to own a team in Baltimore -- says the city couldn't hurt its chances by adding additional ownership groups before the league awards its second expansion franchise later this month.

New York Giants co-owner Bob Tisch, who supports Baltimore's bid, said: "I think a strong potential owner would be good for Baltimore."

Baltimore's NFL bid is being spearheaded by a committee of civic and corporate leaders on behalf of two potential owners: Florida-based corporate investor Malcolm Glazer and a group headed by retail executive Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass.

California-based moviemaker Jeff Lurie recently has expressed an interest in a Baltimore team -- something Tisch said he would encourage.

"You have two strong owners, and this would be another," Tisch said.

Tisch said he has known Lurie for many years, stemming from when their two families competed in the movie theater business. Tisch was president of Loews Corp. until his family sold it about seven years ago; Lurie's grandfather founded the General Cinema Corp. chain that his uncle, Richard Smith, runs.

Lurie runs an independent movie production company called Chestnut Hill Productions, based in Los Angeles.

Tisch said he spoke with a lawyer of Lurie's a month ago and felt Lurie was interested in a football team, possibly in Baltimore. Lurie was in Baltimore Oct. 8 and 9 and met with Maryland Stadium Authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad and Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Lurie has been encouraged to explore a Baltimore bid by Mercantile Safe Deposit & Trust chairman H. Furlong Baldwin, according to two sources. Baldwin was associated with Tisch's bid for a Baltimore team, which ended with Tisch's purchase of half-interest in the Giants in 1991.

"Baltimore is a first-class city," Tisch said. "My interests are there, and I don't hide that. I've been to Camden Yards, and I think it's clear that Baltimore has done a great job with sports."

Lurie, who also has expressed an interest in the New England Patriots, did not return calls.

"I think he would make a first-class owner," Tisch said. "He's a nice young man, and he has a great interest in sports."

Among the movies produced by Chestnut Hill are "I Love You to Death," "Sweet Hearts Dance," "Blind Side" and "V.I. Warshawski."

Tisch is a member of the finance committee of NFL owners. The committee, in conjunction with the expansion committee, jointly recommended Charlotte, N.C., for one franchise last week and deferred naming a second expansion team until this month. Competing with Baltimore for the team will be St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., and Jacksonville, Fla.

Tisch said he was not familiar with another investor who has expressed interest in a Baltimore team, Houston-based energy executive Robert McNair. But, said Tisch, "the more the merrier."

McNair is president of Cogen Technologies Inc., a company he founded in 1983 that operates plants producing steam for industrial customers and electricity for utilities. Cogen tried for several years to develop a plant in South Baltimore, but gave up its effort this summer after regulators insisted on open bidding for the job.

McNair told The Sun Saturday he is interested in owning a team in Baltimore. He visited the city about three years ago with an interest in filing an application for an NFL team but did not, one source said.

He said he also came close to signing up as the lead investor in St. Louis, but dropped out at the last minute when partnership issues could not be resolved.

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