The Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday rejected an offer from an investment group interested in keeping the NFL team in town, and said they would choose "in the very near future" from among a handful of other offers -- including one from Peter Angelos.
Mr. Angelos, majority partner of the Orioles, heads a group of local investors who have offered $205 million for the team if it can be moved to Baltimore. If the team cannot be moved, the group agreed to pay $170 million, according to a source familiar with the bid.
The $205 million offer, which would be a record price for a sports franchise, is among several the team said it received that were better than a bid submitted by a group headed by Tampa, Fla., developer Tommy Shannon.
That bid was submitted several weeks ago to the trust operating the team on behalf of late owner Hugh Culverhouse's estate and contained an expiration of 5 p.m. yesterday.
Mr. Shannon said he was notified the bid had been rejected and was told the team had received another Tampa offer that topped his by $20 million to $30 million. Mr. Shannon told the Tampa Tribune he was not willing to go that high.
"It's always bad to be the first guy in with a bid, because that becomes the number everyone can shoot at. But we felt someone had to step up to the plate," Mr. Shannon told the newspaper.
Asked about Mr. Angelos, he said: "I am extremely concerned. But if someone is willing to pay $210 million and move it, what can we do about it?"
The Buccaneers would not identify the other bidders, but speculation centered on several candidates, including Florida-based financier Malcolm Glazer. Mr. Glazer, who unsuccessfully has bid on a number of sports teams in recent years, once sought an NFL expansion franchise for Baltimore.
"I can't comment now. I just can't," said Mr. Glazer's son, Bryan, of Chicago. He would not confirm if the family had made a bid, although the team said last week that it had met with Mr. Glazer, expected a bid, and that Mr. Glazer intended to keep the team in Tampa.
Others who have expressed interest in the Bucs include New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and a group represented by Baltimore attorney Robert B. Schulman. Mr. Schulman was unavailable yesterday, but said Sunday that his group would not be prepared to file a bid by yesterday.
Mr. Shannon estimated his bid at $163.3 million, but competitors have suggested it contained provisions -- such as credit for expansion fees due the team -- that brought its actual value down to, at most, $155 million.
"We have carefully analyzed their proposal and have elected not to accept it," the trustees said in a written statement.
"We have received several offers in excess of their proposal, and we are currently pursuing those bids. Our evaluation process of these offers will continue, and we expect to have a resolution in the very near future," the trustees said.
The trustees noted that the deadline was set by the Shannon group, not the trustees.
Mr. Angelos said yesterday that he was told his group's offer was among those being considered by the trust, but would say little else.
"Our offer is in, and we believe it is an extraordinarily generous offer," Mr. Angelos said.
At $205 million, the Bucs -- perennial losers on the field -- would become the most expensive franchise in sports, beating the previous record of $185 million paid last year for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Before the Eagles sale, the record had been Mr. Angelos' $173 million purchase of the Orioles in 1993.