D. Modell will step down at end of year

Team president to remain with Ravens as consultant

October 03, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Art Modell's last season as Ravens owner will also mark the final run for his son.

Ravens officials announced yesterday that David Modell will step down as team president at the end of the season but will remain with the franchise as a consultant like his father.

The move will become official in four months, when minority owner Steve Bisciotti buys the remaining 51 percent of the team from Art Modell for $325 million. David Modell, 42, was informed of Bisciotti's intentions in a face-to-face meeting before the season.

"It didn't come as a huge shock to me that these are the steps that he wanted to take," David Modell said. "I knew that if and when the time came that he exercised his option on the majority of the franchise, there was a greater than average likelihood that he would want to have someone of his own choosing running his club.

"I will remain available to assist Steve, his new president and anyone else in the organization who would like to avail themselves of 25 years worth of knowledge in this business. I stand at the ready to be helpful to this franchise now and forever."

Bisciotti said he is considering several key members within the organization and others with league ties for the position and expects to name a new president by season's end.

"As an owner, I'm looking forward to putting my own leadership team in place," said Bisciotti, 43, the founder of one of the world's leading technical staffing firms. "It's a fairly natural thing to want to do in my position."

Besides the change at president, continuity will exist in the front office when Bisciotti takes over. Last year, he signed off on extensions for general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach Brian Billick through his first couple of seasons as owner.

In what could have become an awkward transition, Bisciotti said he has become good friends of the entire Modell family since purchasing 49 percent of the team 3 1/2 years ago.

"I don't fault Steve for this," Art Modell said of the coming change at president. "You want your own imprint. This way he starts with a clean slate, and he's entitled to do that."

While it may be a clean slate, David Modell's fingerprints will remain on the organization.

From coordinating the fan vote to select the team nickname in 1996 to chairing the committee that selected Billick as coach four years ago, David Modell played an integral part in establishing the Ravens' identity and laying the foundation for the Super Bowl championship season.

When the franchise moved from Cleveland, David Modell helped bridge the gap between the Colts and Ravens, which included dedicating funds to make the Baltimore Colts' Band bigger and better. When the Ravens won the Super Bowl, he paraded the Vince Lombardi Trophy to fans and reached his goal of having 100,000 hands placed on it.

"I think the lasting legacy is that we found ways to work together as a team to battle from an organization that was in distress to one that was able to emerge, what I hope, into one of the model NFL franchises," David Modell said. "To be a member of the team that helped to make that happen, that's where you hang your hat."

David Modell worked his way up the organization from the bottom, starting as a member of the grounds crew at Cleveland Stadium at age 14. He moved on to the team's ticket office and public relations department and then started its marketing division in 1985. He was named Ravens president in February 1999.

Like all of his past jobs, he indicated that he will take his consultant role seriously and will not be in a hurry to jump into another venture.

"Art and Steve have provided me with an opportunity that I don't have to rush into anything," David Modell said. "If a terrific opportunity arises in professional sports elsewhere, I would have to look very seriously at that. But who knows what the future holds?"

Art Modell has repeatedly expressed disappointment over not being able to hand over the team to his sons, David and John. But he said the sale of the team allows him to put his estate in order for his family.

When asked if there were any regrets in not inheriting the Ravens, David Modell said, "I have a real hard time looking back and feeling sorry for myself after I've spent 25 years in various jobs throughout this organization that millions upon millions of people would die to have for one day."

In a season dedicated to the final go-around for Art Modell, those close to the Ravens' organization will be saluting David Modell as well.

"It's all about Art, and it should all be about Art," said Kevin Byrne, the Ravens' vice president of public relations. "But when the Modell reign comes to an end, I know David can sit in his office and quietly smile and say, `I was an important part of everything we achieved.' "

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