Bucs say no bidder has edge, but hope deal is 'imminent'

January 12, 1995|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

Trustees selling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are holding extensive, one-on-one sessions with some of the bidders, but they don't think any one of them is a front-runner at this stage.

"I wouldn't say anyone has an edge at this point," trustee Steve Story said last night, after spending much of yesterday in marathon sessions with Baltimore attorney Robert Schulman, who represents a group of unidentified investors bidding on the team.

Story said he has heard from community leaders that New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner may be preparing a bid for the team, but acknowledged it was getting late for new entrants into a three-way race made up of Orioles managing partner Peter Angelos, Florida financier Malcolm Glazer and Schulman's group.

"It certainly gets more difficult every day for anyone to jump in, but it's not impossible," Story told the St. Petersburg Times.

"There's just a lot of negotiating and analyzing points that, at some point, if you don't do something with the people at the table you may lose them. We're very conscious of that," said Story, one of the three trustees operating the team on behalf of the estate of late owner Hugh Culverhouse.

He said none of the bidders had established a deadline in their bid, although "I'm sure that will occur."

Asked if a decision was imminent, Story said, "I sure hope it's imminent. . . . It's a moving kind of target."

He said the trustees still hope to find a buyer who will keep the team

in Tampa.

"We're certainly trying to encourage that, but when you're doing a deal you lose some of that control," Story said.

Schulman has declined to say where the team would play if the group he represents bought it, but Schulman has led past efforts to bring NFL teams to Baltimore.

While remaining open to out-of-town ownership, Story did say, "We're not planning to allow any conditions on a sale as far as NFL approval."

At least one bidder, Angelos, has offered one price if the team can be moved and a lesser one if it can't.

The trustees met with Schulman and his partner, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based attorney, Terry Moore, for most of the day, going over specifics of their group's offer.

"I'm sure we will continue our dialogue on these issues over the next few days," Story said.

Story, in a written statement, said much the same thing about a meeting Tuesday night in Tampa with Glazer, three of his sons and two attorneys.

Glazer, who once led an expansion effort on behalf of Baltimore, has said he intends to keep the team in Tampa and reports peg the value of his offer at $180 million to $190 million.

"We expect to hear from them in the very near future regarding various negotiating points concerning their offer," Story said.

There was no mention of Angelos, who also has submitted a bid for the team but who has spent more time with the trustees than the other bidders in recent weeks.

Story said he was meeting again today with someone, but declined to identify him.

Angelos said yesterday he has no immediate plans to meet with the trustees, but did not know the schedule of his attorney, George Stamas, who was unavailable last night.

A source familiar with the talks but not affiliated with any of the bidders said Schulman's group has made a significant offer for the team that includes the assumption of team liabilities and is relatively free of the contingencies that are in Angelos' bid. Angelos has offered up to $205 million if he can relocate the team to Baltimore, and about $170 million if he cannot.

Schulman's offer still needs to be fleshed out, and the trustees want to know more about the group -- members of which have been a tightly kept secret -- and its ability to complete the deal, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Glazer's financing plan also has been a concern of the trustees, as is the leveraged nature of the corporate investor's far-flung holdings, the source said.

Though the Angelos bid is potentially the highest, its contingencies and Angelos' outspoken style -- which might alienate other NFL owners, who would need to approve the sale -- worry the trustees, the source said.

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