Angelos, Lucchino may become NFL teammates

February 23, 1994|By Mark Hyman and Jon Morgan | Mark Hyman and Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writers

There wasn't enough room in the Orioles front office to hold both Peter G. Angelos and Larry Lucchino, but that unlikely duo might be teaming up if an NFL franchise returns to Baltimore.

Angelos, owner of the Orioles, has been shopping for an NFL franchise he would move to Baltimore. He said this week he has invited Lucchino to join his effort, if he succeeds in buying a team.

Angelos said he has talked with Lucchino about participating as both an investor and in the management of an NFL team.

"He would hold a major position," Angelos said. "He would be offered that, if that was his interest. I have a high regard for his ability."

Lucchino worked 15 years for the Orioles -- the last seven as team president -- before stepping down when Angelos bought the club last October. He confirmed discussions with the Orioles owner, but was skittish when asked about his possible role with a Baltimore NFL team.

"I have an interest, but I don't feel comfortable talking about something that is a gleam in our eyes," Lucchino said yesterday. "It's not something I'd want to talk about with any specificity.

"Peter knows of my willingness to help in any way I can to get an NFL franchise team for Baltimore. I think it would be a great thing for the Camden Yards complex."

In recent weeks, Angelos has emerged as a key figure in Baltimore's fading chances to bring an NFL franchise to Baltimore.

Last week, novelist and Orioles investor Tom Clancy said he might be a part of Angelos' football group.

Angelos says he has been in contact with three NFL teams and is in negotiations with the owner of one franchise. The team is believed to be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are on the market, in part, because owner Hugh Culverhouse is ill with cancer.

Angelos won't confirm talks with the Bucs or discuss the status of any negotiations, but he has said one of his chief motivations in pursuing a football franchise is to complete the twin-stadium complex at Camden Yards.

Half that project, Oriole Park, opened two years ago to rave national reviews. But plans for a companion football stadium faltered when NFL owners snubbed Baltimore's bid for an expansion franchise last year.

The window of opportunity for the football stadium project appears to be closing rapidly. After meeting with Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Angelos eight days ago, legislative leaders agreed to delay any moves to deauthorize bonding for the football stadium until March 1.

Angelos and Lucchino started off their relationship coolly last year. Lucchino was part of a rival group trying to buy the Orioles. When the Angelos investors prevailed, the new owner quickly took control of the team and offered Lucchino a lesser job overseeing the team's baseball operation. Lucchino, who owned percent of the team and earned more than $10 million in the sale, turned him down.

But Lucchino did stay on as a member of the Orioles board of directors and as an unpaid adviser to Angelos on some baseball business matters, including the volatile issue of revenue sharing among major-league clubs. In recent months, the two seemingly have struck up a friendship, meeting over lunch and talking baseball.

"We are on very good terms. He and I have been in much contact," Angelos said.

Lucchino said: "I find him a very likable guy. We have a lot in common. We both care about the success of the [Orioles]."

Were Angelos to buy an NFL franchise and move it to Baltimore, Lucchino would be an obvious choice to take the lead in the team's contribution to the design of a football stadium -- a role he filled during the planning of Oriole Park.

Angelos said: "My objective would be to build a football stadium as unique and acclaimed as Oriole Park. Larry, the stadium authority and the architects did a magnificent job."

Since leaving the Orioles, Lucchino has been linked to front-office jobs with the New York Mets and Florida Marlins. His name also has surfaced as a possible successor to American League president Bobby Brown. A multimillionaire, he is not compelled to take any job. But at 48, he isn't likely to stay retired forever.

Professional football isn't new to Lucchino. He worked for the Washington Redskins in the 1970s and '80s, when his mentor, the late Edward Bennett Williams, owned the team.

"I think of myself as a baseball person first and foremost," Lucchino said. "But I did spend eight years working in football."

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