Left out in cold, Weinglass is hot about endorsement

November 16, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer Staff writer Jon Morgan contributed to this article.

Reacting with indignation and anguish, Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass yesterday assailed Gov. William Donald Schaefer's endorsement of Alfred Lerner as the preferred owner for an NFL expansion franchise in Baltimore.

"I'm outraged, I'm hurt and I'm upset," said Mr. Weinglass, chairman of Joppa-based Merry-Go-Round Enterprises and lead investor of an ownership group trying to put Baltimore back in the NFL.

Mr. Lerner filed an ownership application yesterday before the NFL's noon deadline, along with a $20 million letter of credit and $100,000 application fee. In rapid-fire order, that act drew the public endorsement of Mr. Schaefer and then the bitter outcry by Weinglass.

"We've been here 2 1/2 years," Mr. Weinglass said of his predominantly local group of investors. "And now comes a stranger in the last second, who happens to be my banker, and they're going to endorse him.

"That hurts and that's wrong and that's a foul."

In a 35-minute news conference that was almost theatrical, Mr. Weinglass whistled more fouls than an NBA official.

He blew one on his bank, Maryland National, for telling him several times that Mr. Lerner, former chairman of MNC Financial, would not enter the NFL ownership sweepstakes in competition with Mr. Weinglass.

He blew one on the Maryland Stadium Authority for allegedly misleading Mr. Schaefer in the assumption that multiple ownership groups -- Florida-based corporate investor Malcolm Glazer has been the other prospective owner -- were a strength in the Baltimore application.

And he blew another one on the stadium authority for allegedly steering poultry magnate Frank Perdue away from his group when Mr. Perdue appeared inclined to join him.

Mr. Weinglass' impassioned plea seemed to be aimed at the core of his Baltimore following -- "I hope for your support," he said, reading from a prepared text. And he vowed to stay in the race to the end, which should come Nov. 30 near Chicago, where NFL owners are expected to name their second expansion city. Charlotte, N.C., was awarded the league's 29th franchise Oct. 26.

Mr. Weinglass seemed especially disturbed by the 11th-hour appearance of Mr. Lerner, who owns 5 percent of the Cleveland Browns. Mr. Weinglass said Maryland National had approached his groupabout handling the financing package.

"The chairman of the board at Maryland National at that time was Alfred Lerner," Mr. Weinglass said. "Interestingly, we kept hearing rumors he was a possible applicant for the franchise.

"We repeatedly asked Maryland National and were assured Mr. Lerner was not going to be a competitor of ours for this franchise. I would never have gone to Maryland National if I had known Mr. Lerner would be looking over my shoulder."

Mr. Lerner did not return calls yesterday.

Mr. Weinglass further lamented the entrance of Mr. Lerner into the picture by saying that the Baltimore expansion committee had nine years to find an owner.

"And who do we get?" Mr. Weinglass said. "We get the man who sold our largest bank to Charlotte, N.C., the man who caused thousands of jobs to leave Baltimore. That's who we got."

MNC was sold this year to Charlotte-based NationsBank.

Although Mr. Weinglass did not identify Herbert J. Belgrad by name, there is no doubt he blames the stadium authority chairman forlack of support by local politicians. Mr. Weinglass cited Charlotte as an example of how the process should have worked.

"The governor told me that neither of the two Baltimore groups won on Oct. 26 in Chicago," Mr. Weinglass said. "This is true. Also true, neither of us lost.

"Baltimore's problem is not ownership groups. The winning city, Charlotte, is the city that combined a political strength of state and local government with a local ownership group. Charlotte presented a unified front. Baltimore did not."

Mr. Weinglass said Mr. Schaefer and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke were "poorly advised" on the matter and called Baltimore's strategy a "misguided policy."

Mr. Weinglass also took the stadium authority to task for allegedly guiding Mr. Perdue away from his group.

"Frank Perdue at one time wanted to join my group," he said. "We had conversations. I think he was dissuaded from joining my group by the stadium authority. . . . I'm angry about that. I don't think the stadium authority has the right to pick a group. Their job is to handle the stadium."

Now that Baltimore has three vying ownership groups -- Mr. Glazer also said he would remain in the hunt -- Mr. Weinglass likened the city's application to the confusing St. Louis bid, where investors have popped up, only to disappear days later.

Mr. Glazer said the governor's endorsement of Mr. Lerner "hasn't changed our status at all. We're committed to Baltimore."

Later, in a statement, he said: "We believe that, if the NFL chooses Baltimore, we're confident that the NFL will pick one of the two owners that filed before the original deadline over two years ago."

Mathias J. DeVito, who heads The Rouse Co. and is a member of Baltimore's expansion committee, said support for Mr. Lerner should not be seen as an indictment of Mr. Weinglass or Mr. Glazer.

"There were never negatives about Boogie or the Glazers," Mr. DeVito said. "We wouldn't have supported them so long, we wouldn't have supported them on Oct. 26, if we felt there was a negative. Nothing happened on the 26th that made us disenchanted with them. It was just a fact of strengthening our application.

"They're very frustrated and upset. We wish it could be otherwise. . . . We feel he's a good person, the group is good people. We really do feel that way."

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