Tenacious Glazer family buys itself a NFL team

January 16, 1995|By JOHN STEADMAN

That Malcolm Glazer & Sons are within the stroke of a pen of purchasing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- and it was to be done today -- is not exactly an upset. A comeback of sorts? Perhaps. But the Glazers were always there, with quiet presence, as they demonstrated unrelenting resolve to acquire a major-league team.

Shortly after 6 a.m. today, a source in Tampa said that it was "all over," and the Glazers had bought their way into the National Football League for a record price of $192 million.

Other details were coming later today as the Glazers refused to make any additional comment or to confirm the report.

Although a costly buy, this could be much better financially than if the Glazer family had been able to get a franchise for Baltimore a year ago when the city was rejected in the expansion process.

Part of why Tampa Bay is an especially enticing deal is the buyer will get a quick return on the investment. Existing NFL clubs are paid $40 million annually in television revenues. The new expansion cities of Charlotte and Jacksonville -- as would Baltimore, had it been selected -- must wait three years before they get any piece of the rich TV pie.

In previous bids for other teams, the Glazers "kicked over the water bucket," so to speak, and didn't close out negotiations. They were also-rans. Still, they were hurt this past week when an attorney with another group was quoted as saying the Glazers had trouble pulling the trigger.

That was offensive to them and served to give added incentive to a push for the Tampa Bay property. They have been criticized here for not looking the part of owners, whatever that means. And in their resume, there's no active involvement in sports as participants or team executives. But the same could be said for Peter Angelos before he bought the Baltimore Orioles 18 months ago.

Malcolm Glazer is a soft-spoken gentleman who came up the hard way. He started in the jewelry business and, as his persistence paid off, acquired diversified interests and his wealth increased. One personal thing that must be said in his behalf is there's a positive sign for any father when you see him traveling with his sons, in this case, Joel and Bryan.

They are inseparable, a three-man entry, be it at Super Bowls or NFL meetings. When they put an expensive box of candy at the place setting of each owner at the NFL expansion session in Chicago, there was laughter and a trace of scorn -- as if the Glazers were trying to bribe the clubs to admit Baltimore by presenting a gift of chocolates.

But it was a gesture on their part to be friendly. Nothing more. Too bad more people engaging in high and mighty transactions don't show such personal consideration. In fact, there's a highly successful NFL owner who puts a similar box of candy in the booth of the visiting owner on game days to be hospitable.

The Glazers, in pursuing the quest for the Buccaneers, engaged a law firm close to trustee Steve Story, who is handling the sale arrangement for the late Hugh Culverhouse, who founded the Buccaneers. The law firm Glazer hired is the same one that represents the team. Nothing like keeping the business in the same organization, which is an advantage for the Glazers.

In Baltimore, the Glazers were treated as "outsiders," never truly accepted and, in the end, eliminated by the Maryland Stadium Authority that endorsed Al Lerner, a part-owner of the Cleveland Browns. This led Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, another applicant for the franchise, to take a full-page advertisement to vent his fury.

The Glazers didn't do that. They took their beating and left. Herb Belgrad, executive director of the stadium authority, had earlier made it known the Glazers were reluctant to put up a check for $50,000 to help with the financial arrangements in preparing Baltimore's video presentation and other expenses.

In all fairness, the Glazers wanted first to know what the money was for and, when it was explained, joined in to the same extent as the other groups with a $50,000 donation. They also paid $40,000, as an act of goodwill, to buy some expensive instruments for the Colts' Band.

This was being done, just like the boxes of candy they put in the room for the NFL owners, to show they cared, even if the gesture was misunderstood. Author Tom Clancy, who was competing against the Glazers and Weinglass for the rights to a team in Baltimore, took a dim view of what was going on around him.

Clancy looked at the Glazer boys and uttered a typical Clancyism: "They might need a train set, but I don't." Short, biting and more than a bit judgmental. But the erudite Clancy, never at a loss for words, spoken or written, made his point.

The Glazers took it on the chin in Baltimore, were never truly welcomed, although their intentions were honorable and forthright. They just may become outstanding owners of an NFL team -- with the idea to have fun and not to inflate their own egos or put themselves in position to make power plays.

It doesn't seem to be in their nature to be the types to interfere with coaches or general managers. They will, hopefully, allow professional career people to function with appropriate authority, which is something the new breed of sports owner, wrapped in his role of self-importance, doesn't dare permit.

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