Little change expected in 49ers Operation should stay successful despite DeBartolo resignation

December 03, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The sudden resignation of Edward DeBartolo Jr., the only NFL owner to win five Super Bowls, as the head of the San Francisco 49ers is not expected to have a major impact on the team's fortunes.

That's the opinion of several NFL owners because the team will stay in the family with his sister, Marie Denise DeBartolo York, stepping into the position of team chairman, and team president Carmen Policy, who has been running the day-to-day operations for years, remaining at his post. He will become a minority partner.

Policy, who could pass for DeBartolo's twin, will represent the team at league meetings, but he's been operating in that role in recent years.

DeBartolo, who resigned because he and former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards are about to be indicted by a federal grand jury for gambling fraud in the pursuit of a gaming license, said in a statement that the allegations are not true.

"I am thankful for the support of my wife, my children, my family and my friends. They know, as do I, that these things simply are not true. I look forward to the time when I can address these issues and tell my side of the story," he said.

Although several owners were surprised at the resignation, they said the 49ers' operation isn't likely to change because Policy will remain in charge. He has been as sociated with the team since 1979, has been chief executive officer since 1991 and was named league executive of the year in 1994.

Art Modell, the Ravens' owner, said, "I'm very, very saddened by it [DeBartolo's resignation]. I wish Eddie the best. But I don't think there'll be any change. Carmen's been running the show for a long time. He's a class act and he can do no wrong in Art Modell's eyes."

Bob Tisch, the co-owner of the New York Giants, said, "Carmen (( is first-rate. You can't get anybody better than Carmen."

Dan Rooney, the president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, said, "As long as Carmen is there with authority, I don't think anything will change. He's a very capable guy."

Rooney and DeBartolo are the only owners who have won more than three Super Bowls.

When DeBartolo bought the team in 1976, the 49ers had never won a championship since being founded in 1946.

But DeBartolo changed all that by hiring Bill Walsh as coach in 1979 and subsidizing the team with the money from his late father's shopping mall empire.

He spared no expense as long as the team won. He paid quarterback Steve Young like a starter to sit behind Joe Montana and wait his turn. When the team won Super Bowls, he treated the players to trips to Hawaii.

DeBartolo, though, demanded results. He accepted no excuses for failure to win a Super Bowl and was not always a gracious loser. He kicked in a soda machine after one loss and was involved in an altercation with two Green Bay Packers fans after last January's playoff loss.

With DeBartolo's sister now in charge, Policy is likely to continue to spend big money and demand big results.

York, who has been involved in the family's shopping mall empire, said it was "a very difficult time" for her brother.

"In this country, everyone is entitled to a presumption of innocence and to due process under the law. I hope everything will work out for him," she said.

Policy said there would be "no disruption" in the day-to-day operations of the team.

"Eddie DeBartolo and his family has the full support of myself, the team and the entire 49ers organization," Policy said in his statement. He scheduled a news conference today.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the NFL had been aware of the grand jury investigation prior to yesterday's announcement, and that it would be "inappropriate to comment on the legal proceedings involving Mr. DeBartolo while those matters remain subject to the judicial process."

Under league bylaws, the commissioner can force an owner to sell his team for conduct detrimental to the league if 23 owners approve. But Tagliabue would not be likely to force a confrontation with DeBartolo.

DeBartolo said he was stepping aside from any role in the project to build a stadium for the 49ers in San Francisco. It barely passed in a referendum this spring.

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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