Boogie's just another fan he should be much more

June 09, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

I miss Boogie, you miss Boogie, we all miss Boogie.

Heck, even Boogie misses Boogie.

"It would have been a lot more fun running a football team," he said, dejectedly.

That was his dream -- to run a football team, or a baseball team, whichever came first.

Instead, Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass is busy trying to rescue Merry-Go-Round, Inc., the company he founded in 1968, the company that lost $45.6 million last year and entered bankruptcy in January.

How quickly his world shattered.

A year ago, Boogie was at the center of the Baltimore sports universe, plotting with Peter Angelos and Tom Clancy to return the Orioles to local ownership, heading one of two groups trying to land an NFL expansion franchise.

Now, it's Angelos who owns the Orioles, Angelos who is trying to buy an NFL team. Boogie dropped out of the baseball group to concentrate on football. When the NFL rejected Baltimore, he was left with nothing -- except his crumbling business empire.

These days, Boogie works long hours at the Merry-Go-Round offices in Joppa -- "9 to 5? Are you kidding. I never see 5 o'clock" -- then travels to trade shows on the weekends. It's a life he thought he had left behind -- he had retired in 1981, to Aspen, Colo.

He still loves sports. He still wants to be "a player." It's just not possible right now. Angelos had promised to welcome him back to the Orioles "with open arms," but Boogie said he couldn't do it, not with Merry-Go-Round in such bad shape.

"When I found out we weren't getting football, I had already been summoned back to work here," Boogie said last week. "I thought it would be disrespectful to be pursuing the part-ownership of a baseball team.

"I like Pete. I liked what he did. I liked his energy. But I didn't want to be part of 20 people. I went out and met a lot of them. I was content. Baltimore had the team. I didn't care.

"All ego aside, I was very happy. If I'm investing in something, I want to be part of it. If we weren't in bankruptcy, if I didn't have to go back to work, I would have been part of it."

At least that's what he believes.

No one knows if the major-league owners would have approved Boogie, even though both he and Angelos insist it would not have been a problem.

The other issue -- perhaps the greater issue -- is whether Boogie and Angelos could have co-existed at all.

Only one of them could have fired the manager, you know.

And whatever happened to Bill DeWitt, Angelos' partner from Cincinnati?

Angelos likely perceived Boogie as a threat, but he maintains that he'd be "very receptive" if Boogie wanted to return to baseball, and says Boogie would be "one of the first people I'd talk with" about becoming a potential investor in an NFL team.

Right now, both are moot points.

Boogie is an Orioles season-ticket holder, that's all.

"I really love it when I sit there as a fan," he said. "I don't have to think about Tagliabue and the Stadium Authority people. I can just sit there and grab a hot dog, be a fan. It's so much fun. It relieves everything for me.

"Then, when I pick up the papers and see we're still trying to get football -- I just can't, the way the firm is running. We're in bankruptcy. And I'm not as liquid as I once was."

Never mind that a bankruptcy court judge recently allowed Merry-Go-Round to double Boogie's salary to $300,000. That figure represents a small percentage of the income he draws from the company.

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last year, Boogie owns 5 million shares of stock in Merry-Go-Round. That stake, worth more than $80 million a year ago, is now worth about $10 million.

As Angelos put it, "He's legitimately distracted by the need to get a multimillion-dollar business back on keel. I have the feeling that now is not the time to bother him about a sports team."

Fair enough, but if things ever turn around, Angelos had better not forget Boogie's role in getting this all started.

Boogie tried to buy the Orioles first -- it was Boogie vs. DeWitt, back when no one had ever heard of Angelos. At that time, the bidding was restricted. When Boogie chose to pursue football, he gave Angelos the Orioles' confidential financial statements, and the use of his accountant.

Later, he joined the Angelos group as an investor, and brought along David Bernstein, Richard Pearlstone and Barry Levinson as well. Only Bernstein and Levinson remained in the group, but Boogie said Angelos benefited from the addition of nearly $250 million in net worth.

"He was very helpful," Angelos said. "When he and his group joined Henry [Knott], [Tom] Clancy and myself, that's when it happened. That gave us a real strong shot in the arm. He certainly added to the ability of the group to persuade the creditors that the group meant business."

But now he's just another fan.

"I think Pete did a great job following through," Boogie said. "It makes me feel good. I was part of helping him get the team initially, a solid investor. And I'm ecstatic with what he did, bringing Palmeiro in. I think he's missing one link -- they need someone to rile them up a little bit."

Good old Boogie, wanting to fire the manager -- and hire Rick Dempsey and Boog Powell as base coaches, while he's at it.

I miss him.

You miss him.

We all miss him.

"I know I would have been a great owner," Boogie Weinglass said. "Motivation would not have been a problem."

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