Right offer could lure Bucs away, trustees say

September 01, 1994|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

The trustees running the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for late owner Hugh Culverhouse said yesterday that they are not actively looking for a buyer -- but would accept offers for the team.

"I cannot predict the future of the Buccaneer franchise," said Steve Story, a member of the three-person board of trustees charged by Culverhouse with running or selling the team. Culverhouse died last week after a long bout with cancer.

Story said there are no specific instructions in the trust agreement that governs what will happen to the Bucs, dismissing speculation that Culverhouse may have stipulated the team be sold or that it be sold only to investors willing to keep it in the Tampa Bay area.

"We are under no pressure to sell," said Story in a three-page statement he read at a news conference yesterday in Tampa, Fla. "There is no 'For Sale' sign in front of One Buccaneer Place.

"On the other hand, like anyone with property, if someone knocked on your door and offered you a deal, you would listen. We have listened politely to other offers in the past and declined to act on them, and we may listen in the future."

Among the inquiries the team has received in the past were some from investors interested in moving the team to Baltimore. Orioles owner Peter Angelos offered $200 million for the team earlier this year, and Florida-based financier Malcolm Glazer also asked about the team.

While no talks are under way with potential buyers, Story said trustees are obligated to operate the trust "in a responsible manner," including selling it if that's in the best financial interest of the trust.

Asked what he would say if Angelos inquired about the team, Story said, "I'd tell him to put it in writing.

"We're not going to deal with speculations in negotiations," Story said. "If someone puts something in writing to the trustees, we have a fiduciary responsibility to consider it."

Angelos confirmed yesterday that he remains interested in the team.

"It would not be prudent for us not to explore any option that becomes available, therefore we would be interested in the Tampa Bay franchise. However, our interest in the Rams is not in any way diminished," Angelos said.

At least two investor groups have been in contact with the Los Angeles Rams about a move to Baltimore, one headed by Angelos and another represented by local attorney Robert B. Schulman. Neither Schulman nor Glazer was available for comment yesterday.

The Rams recently suspended negotiations with St. Louis, expressing frustration at that city's inability to clarify control of the lease on a downtown stadium now under construction.

Jerry Clinton, a St. Louis-based beverage distributor who claims a stake of the stadium lease and would like to own a franchise, said he was encouraged by Story's statement.

"I think it's an invitation to lay some bids in front of them. I absolutely plan to discuss the situation with the Culverhouse people or their trustees," Clinton said.

Operation of the team was transferred early last year to the trust, which is set up for the benefit of Culverhouse's widow, Joy Culverhouse.

Story said the trustees, if all things were equal, would like the team to stay in Tampa.

The late team owner "had great aspirations for this team and this area, but we also know that he wanted to preserve for us all possible options for the best interest of his estate," Story said.

The team would not necessarily go to the highest bidder, however, he said. "Certainly relocation is a big issue in our mind. It would be a concern to us even at a price differential," he said.

Privately, the trustees have acknowledged that they plan to sell the team because Culverhouse's heirs are not interested in keeping it, according to two sources who have spoken with trustees.

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