Buccaneers get another Fla. bidder

January 13, 1995|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

Flamboyant New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner yesterday made an 11th-hour bid to buy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, saying he doesn't like to finish second to anyone -- including fellow baseball team owner Peter Angelos.

Trustees selling the team said that it was late for a new bid, but that they would consider the offer. The value of the bid was not revealed.

"It's substantial, but we need to get a lot more detail," Bucs trustee Steve Story said last night outside his Tampa office. Mr. Steinbrenner, a resident of Tampa, did not include the names of his partners in the bid and declined to reveal them.

Mr. Steinbrenner said he would not be the majority investor.

The bid could be greater than a local offer the trustees rejected Monday that had an estimated worth of $150 million to $163 million, depending upon how its elements were counted, Mr. Story said.

Asked whether it was comparable to the $205 million offer by Mr. Angelos, managing partner of the Orioles, Mr. Story said, "It's a different kind of bid."

But Mr. Story, one of three trustees operating the team for the estate of the late Hugh Culverhouse, also said the trustees were unwilling to accept the condition Mr. Angelos has made part of his bid: that the team be moved to Baltimore.

"No sale will be made with that as a condition. We as trustees still hope it can stay in Tampa, but you can't always control that in these deals," he said. But Mr. Story has continued to talk to Mr. Angelos, who has offered a lesser amount if the team can't be moved, and has named him a finalist in the bidding.

Mr. Steinbrenner called a news conference yesterday and said: "It was a decision really that local ownership should be involved and we just have to hope it works out for us."

The deal was structured to comply with the NFL's prohibitions on cross-ownership, he said. This apparently rules out as a major investor one partner he has said he was considering -- Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad.

Mr. Steinbrenner said several weeks ago that he had talked to retired Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca about joining the bid, but he would not comment on that yesterday.

He said Tampa Stadium would have to be replaced or upgraded for the team to succeed.

"I like Peter Angelos. I have great respect for him. We have a great rivalry," Mr. Steinbrenner said.

In what could shape up as a financial duel between two of the sports world's more colorful figures, Mr. Steinbrenner said, "I don't like losing to the Orioles or anyone else."

Mr. Angelos expressed no fear of the new competitor.

"I know George is very committed to the Tampa area, and certainly a bid by him is consistent with his support of his hometown," he said.

"We're just watching it very closely, and we feel we've made a very substantial bid and have expectations that we will be successful."

Prior to Mr. Steinbrenner's bid, the trustees had said they were focusing on offers by Mr. Angelos, by a group represented by Baltimore attorney Robert Schulman, and by Florida financier Malcolm Glazer.

Yesterday, Mr. Glazer spent several hours with the trustees, going over a bid estimated to be worth $180 million to $190 million. Mr. Glazer, who once led an expansion effort on behalf of Baltimore, has said he would keep the team in Tampa at least for a few years.

The trustees spent almost all of Wednesday in extended meetings with Mr. Schulman and his partner in the deal, Jacksonville, Fla., attorney Terry Moore. Neither man would divulge the investors or where they plan to have the team play, although Mr. Schulman has mounted efforts to move several teams to Baltimore.

Mr. Steinbrenner, despite his national image as a volatile autocrat, is viewed as a philanthropist in his adopted hometown of Tampa, where some store owners have put up signs saying "Save our Team, George."

"He's the closest thing we have to a superman or white knight. He's done a lot for the community," said Rick Nafe of the Tampa Sports Authority.

Another Bucs suitor, however, doubted Mr. Steinbrenner could bid any higher than his group's $160 million if he planned to keep the team in outdated Tampa Stadium.

"Anytime you get north of $160 million, the deal is economically a disaster unless you are going to move it out of Tampa," said Bruce Frey, who submitted a bid with Florida millionaire George Lindemann.

Mr. Steinbrenner has led efforts to save the debt-ridden Florida Orchestra, and in 1992 stepped in at the last moment to save the city's foundering National Hockey League bid. But, after the Tampa Bay Lightning's ownership stabilized -- and before the team began its first season -- Mr. Steinbrenner dropped out amid disagreements with partners.

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