Jack Kent Cooke Redskins owner: 'The Squire' made millions in media, but gained fame in sports.

April 07, 1997

ONLY ONCE DID success elude mega-millionaire Jack Kent Cooke.

He struck it rich with radio and TV stations, newspapers and cable television. He reaped rewards from a large racing stable and Kentucky horse-breeding farm, a fabled West Coast sports arena, pro basketball and hockey teams and, of course, the Washington Redskins. But "The Squire" never achieved his final dream: Attending the fall opening of his $200 million football stadium in Landover that now is almost certain to bear his name.

Mr. Cooke died yesterday at age 84, a colorful and brash figure in the sports world and in this region's sporting life.

He could charm you for an evening with his hilarious tales of wine, women and youthful escapades; the next day he could bully you unmercifully to get his way. He needed all his wiles to finagle $73 million out of a reluctant state of Maryland to help him erect his final monument in Landover. But he did it, and with panache.

He spent plenty of money resurrecting a sorry Washington football franchise and watching it win three Super Bowl titles. Earlier, he had opened his checkbook to help the Los Angeles Lakers win league championships, made the L.A. Kings a potent hockey franchise and built the Forum in L.A. that reaped huge dividends and served as a magnet for area sports fans.

Not bad for a Canadian encyclopedia salesman who first accumulated a fortune and then turned his attention to sports. As he aged, he became more abrasive and tougher to deal with, so ornery that it took him years to find a site for his new Redskins stadium after failing to come to terms with D.C., Virginia and Laurel, Md., officials.

Jack Kent Cooke died a wealthy man, one of the richest in the country. He had five tumultuous marriages -- and equally tumultuous divorces. He fully enjoyed running his sports ventures and watching them succeed. His spirit will be forever imbued in the gleaming football stadium fast approaching completion in the Washington suburbs of Maryland.

Pub Date: 4/07/97

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