Md. National CEO says he, not Lerner, OK'd Boogie's loan

November 24, 1993|By John Steadman

From the man who authorized Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass' loan from Maryland National Bank, which accompanied his application for an NFL expansion franchise, comes a different and revealing behind-the-scenes look at what happened. Frank Bramble, president/executive officer of the institution, said he alone approved the deal and Al Lerner, chairman of the board, was never involved in any discussion of the matter.

Bramble both denied and denounced the accusations made last week by Weinglass about Lerner, who has been sanctioned by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the Maryland Stadium Authority to lead Baltimore's effort when NFL owners vote to award a team next Tuesday.

When Schaefer decided Lerner offered the best hope for success, Weinglass vented his fury by making accusations about Lerner's involvement in the loan approval that Bramble says were totally inaccurate and tried to impugn the integrity of an individual who "doesn't deserve to be treated in such a way."

Bramble, in reviewing the allegations, commented: "It was entirely unfair and unjust for Weinglass to make such a totally irresponsible charge. The loan was approved by me. Al Lerner never talked about it and hasn't to this minute."

In referring to Lerner in the most complimentary of terms, Bramble went on to say, "He doesn't need a defense because his accomplishments are extraordinary. The facts are not as Weinglass suggests. Admiration for Lerner is worldwide in scope. His reputation is impeccable."

When enumerating his credentials for owning a team, Bramble added, "If Al gets the franchise, he'll make the fans, the league and commissioner proud that an individual of his quality is involved. You only have to ask such respected Baltimore leaders as Dr. Morton Rapoport, president of the University of Maryland Medical System; or John 'Jake' Oliver, publisher of the Baltimore Afro-American; or George McGowan or Grant Hathaway or Ollie Travers or Dick Hug to find out what this man stands for in decency and honor."

Addressing the subject of the loan from Maryland National, now a part of NationsBank, the facts as related by Bramble give the issue a different perspective.

"I approved the Weinglass loan and financing," said Bramble. "Al never discussed it with me. He got a packet, as do all members of the board of directors, but that would have been along with many others.

"What Weinglass said is all baloney. As chairman of the board, Al wasn't invested with authority to approve or reject loans. He never took part in that. I deeply resent anyone of his credibility being criticized. Al wasn't treated fairly by Weinglass."

Asked what might characterize a word profile of Lerner, Bramble, a former associate, called him a tough negotiator, extremely loyal to friends and employees and endowed with enormous skills.

"The regulatory agencies of this country have enormous respect for Lerner," he said. "I've seen the best Wall Street has to offer and none of them can touch him."

At no time has Lerner alluded to a humble past and the heights he attained, including a worth of $700 million listed in Forbes magazine. But Bramble knows how far Lerner has come.

"If you've been poor you don't wear it on your sleeve," he said. "Al grew up in Brooklyn, where his immigrant parents from Russia ran a candy store from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. He slept in a back room."

Bramble points out Lerner dealt with a financial crisis at Maryland National that wasn't of his creation.

"When he saved all those jobs [which Weinglass said he lost], it was a result of immense understanding of what had to be done," Bramble said. "After it was over, I remember him saying, 'We survived and we have a lot to be proud of, but if we had failed to survive I would still be proud of the way you all behaved.' "

Lerner's persona is such he puts others out front to operate his various businesses and is supportive, offering ideas but not a second guess. As a 5 percent owner of the Cleveland Browns he's not as well known in the NFL as might be expected.

"That's because Al isn't the type to advertise himself," said Bramble. "He knows the Browns belong to Art Modell. It's Art's team and it goes along with the personal respect he has for him that he would never be out front engaging in self-promotion. You know how some Marines always talk about their affiliation. Al is proud to have been a Marine, but you won't hear him brag."

Frank Bramble's assessment of Al Lerner concludes with an insistence that if he gets a team he'll be the best owner in Baltimore sports history.

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