Investment firm hired to manage sale for Ravens

Selling stake of team could take several months

July 28, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens have retained the investment banking firm of Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown to manage the sale of a minority ownership position in the franchise, team officials announced yesterday. The process could take several months and extend into the first week of January, when the regular season is completed.

Ravens owner Art Modell recently said he would sell off a stake in the team to repay a short-term $65 million loan by the league and to provide working capital to help make the team more competitive.

The Ravens have been highly profitable, but still are facing trouble. The franchise has been unable to contain its spending to maintain a debt to operating profit ratio that lenders demanded in a 1997 financial package of $185 million that the team took out in loans and other forms of credit. Interest on the debt could be as high as $20 million a year.

Mayo Shattuck of Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown said that the Modell family would maintain controlling interest, and that there had already been several interested parties. The percentage of the team the minority owner could acquire is negotiable, according to a high-ranking team official.

"Our intention since buying out our partners in Cleveland has been to add a partner in Baltimore," said Modell in a brief statement. "The important thing for fans to understand about this partnership is that it will help us compete at the highest NFL level."

The Ravens hired Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown because recent sales of the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins brought in hundreds of millions of dollars more than initially expected after investment firms were hired. Shattuck said he didn't expect any problems in finding a new investor.

"I feel the Modells are one of the most respected sports families in the country and are owners of one of the most prominent sports franchises in the world," said Shattuck. "That's a pretty good combination."

Shattuck said the process will include putting a financial memorandum together for potential investors, and then a qualification process for the investors.

The final step will be for Modell to choose a partner. Modell, 74, recently acknowledged that taking on a new investor would aid in his estate planning and that he hoped son David, 37, the Ravens' president, would eventually inherit the team.

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