Among NFL aspirants, Baltimore has the most 'money' players

November 21, 1993|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

Baltimore's NFL bid is coming in at the top in at least one category: the Forbes 400.

The magazine's annual list of the wealthiest Americans -- an admittedly imprecise ranking -- includes four people now in the running for an expansion football team. The richest two represent Baltimore.

Henry Rosenberg, chairman of the Baltimore-based Crown Central Petroleum, is a member of the Blaustein family, which made a fortune in oil. He's also a limited partner in an investment group headed by Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass that is seeking a football team here.

The magazine values the Blaustein family chest at $1.2 billion.

J. Wayne Weaver, who has compiled riches in shoe retailing and is heading the NFL bid of Jacksonville, Fla., has a net worth

estimated at $385 million by Forbes.

Leon Levine, founder of Family Dollar Stores and a partner in Jerry Richardson's new franchise in Charlotte, N.C., is estimated at being worth $335 million.

E. Stanley Kroenke, head of the St. Louis group, is an in-law of James Walton, a brother of the late Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. James is listed with a worth of $1.1 billion.

But the richest individual in the running is Baltimore's newest entrant, Cleveland-based businessman Alfred Lerner. The magazine ranks his worth at $770 million.

Steady in St. Louis

St. Louis continues to steady its once-unstable bid.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last week that Walter Payton has received the necessary clearances to join the new ownership group there, headed by Kroenke, a real-estate developer.

Payton, a Hall of Fame running back for the Chicago Bears, had previously been associated with a group headed by beer distributor Jerry Clinton, but became a free agent when that group failed to tender an application last Monday. By lending his prestige to their partnership, Payton was to get 10 percent of the team for free and the right to be the voting representative at league meetings, the newspaper said.

He reportedly wants the same deal with the new group.

Bears owner Edward McCaskey says he would vote for the expansion city that gets Payton.

Meanwhile, Clinton said last week that when former partnership head James Busch Orthwein dropped back to a limited partner in September, he had a plan to fill the financial hole. Clinton said he wanted to restructure the bid to sell some of the projected stadium revenues in advance, raising cash to use for the franchise fee.

The league pointedly indicated that other cities were offering more cash, and that set Clinton off on a wild, but unsuccessful, effort to find new investors.

Memphis blues

The blues in Memphis, Tenn., are loud and clear. Prospective team owner William Dunavant Jr., a cotton merchant, said several weeks ago that he was waiting for a sign from the league to continue with his bid.

He never got one, but is still in the race, sort of.

"I don't think right now we're in the thick of things," Dunavant told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal last week. "We've done everything we could do. We made our best shot."

Expanding again?

More expansion is in the air.

One NFL source said the league is considering announcing not only the second expansion franchise on Nov. 30, but also a

timetable for another two teams to be awarded. One date under serious consideration is 1998, when the current labor agreement with players expires.

The thinking is the league would gain leverage by offering growth to the players union, the source said.

The expansion would be open to all cities, not just the losers this time around, but would follow a much shorter interval than the last expansion. The league added Seattle and Tampa Bay in 1974, with the teams beginning play in 1976.

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