Braman throws obstacle into Eagles sales talks

April 04, 1994|By Knight-Ridder News Service

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman made new financial demands on Hollywood producer Jeffrey Lurie late last week that have sent Lurie's negotiators scurrying to close the deal to buy the team, sources said.

It is unclear whether Braman's latest moves are merely a last-minute negotiating tactic or whether they are designed to scuttle the deal.

Lurie, sources said, still plans to be in Philadelphia tomorrow or Wednesday, when he expects Braman to sign an agreement to sell the Eagles for $185 million, the highest amount ever paid for an NFL team.

Braman reportedly wants some revisions in the way the deal is constructed. Braman wants Lurie to put up more of his family's stock in Harcourt General Inc. as collateral because Lurie himself does not have $185 million in cash and is borrowing money, some of it from Braman himself, sources said.

"He's not selling unless he gets what he wants," said one source close to Braman. "If Lurie does not agree to what Norman wants, there won't be a deal."

The Boston Globe reported yesterday that Braman's latest demands could cause the deal to fail.

But an NFL source monitoring the deal closely said Saturday that Braman and Lurie were merely engaged in last-minute negotiating tactics not uncommon during the sale of an NFL franchise. Negotiations are expected to resume today.

NFL officials, Lurie and members of the Eagles organization expected Braman to have signed the agreement of sale no later than Friday.

In fact, Braman's daughter, Eagles vice president Suzi L. Braman, had been telling acquaintances that the deal was done. And Braman's tax attorneys at Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen believed the deal was done.

But Braman threw everybody a curve late last week.

Sources in Miami said he was angered at news reports that the sale was "imminent," and decided to exercise control over the pace of the sale.

Braman's tactics are not unusual. He has been known to drag out contract negotiations with his Eagles players. And when he purchased the team in 1985 from Leonard Tose, Braman often changed the terms of the deal after both sides had reached agreement.

In fact, Tose has been calling Lurie's negotiators and NFL officials in New York, warning them of Braman's past negotiating habits.

All sides took a break from the negotiations over Easter weekend.

What is frustrating Lurie's backers is that Braman, a Miami business tycoon, appears to be squeezing Lurie unnecessarily. Braman knows Lurie is good for the money, according to Lurie's backers. They say Braman asked Richard Smith, chairman of Harcourt General, to check out Lurie before Braman even agreed to sale negotiations.

Smith told Braman that Lurie, the heir to a multimillion-dollar publishing and movie-house fortune, was good for any money he needed to borrow, according to Smith family sources.

That alone makes it hard to believe that Braman would allow the deal to fall apart over collateral, according to Lurie's backers.

Braman still is not talking. He won't talk because he is smarting from all the negative publicity he has gotten recently: the sale of the club; his trip to the Far East at a time when the NFL owners were meeting in Orlando, Fla.; the Eagles' inability to re-sign key players; and the shake-up at NFL Properties, over which he once presided.

"The Philadelphia press has been very rough on him in the last couple of months," said a source. "He wasn't always like this with reporters. With what's been written about him lately, can you blame him?"

Last week Braman returned from a three-week vacation to the Far East. He is 15 pounds lighter, the result of a flu during the trip.

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