Bisciotti quietly completes deal, takes control of Ravens

No fanfare for transaction

Modell retains 1 percent

April 09, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' transfer of power was seamless and silent yesterday when Steve Bisciotti took over for Art Modell as the team's principal owner.

The final step in the ownership change - Bisciotti's wiring of approximately $325 million to purchase nearly the remainder of the Ravens - went without a news conference, and both sides declined to make statements.

As the transaction went through yesterday afternoon, Bisciotti was working out while Modell was relaxing at his new Florida home. The paperwork had been signed previously.

The lack of any fanfare made it business as usual at the Ravens' Owings Mills practice complex, where an internal e-mail was sent out saying Bisciotti was proud of taking a more prominent role with the team and was committed to maintaining the Ravens' winning ways.

The only major move expected to take place under Bisciotti is the hiring of Dick Cass as team president. The Washington corporate attorney officially replaced David Modell, who will stay with the team for two years as a consultant.

"I don't think even the people in the organization sense there is going to be much change," Bisciotti said last week at the owners meetings. "I think they're comfortable with me and I'm comfortable with them. I think they know me well enough to know my management style is very much like Art's in that he tends to pick people with character and confidence and let them do their job. He challenges them like I challenge people."

Modell, 78, whose run as majority owner ends at 43 years, will continue to attend practices daily and will have an office beside Bisciotti in the Ravens' new practice complex, which is scheduled to be completed in October.

So Modell could still have a voice with the Ravens, Bisciotti signed off on a late agreement in which Modell could retain 1 percent of the club. That 1 percent - which is estimated to be worth $6 million - is substantially more than what Modell paid to buy the then-Cleveland Browns in 1961 ($3.8 million).

More than three decades later, Modell relocated the Browns because of an ongoing poor stadium situation in Cleveland and brought football back to Baltimore. To get his estate in order, Modell sold 49 percent of the team in 1999 to Bisciotti and gave him an option to buy the rest of the club after the 2003 season.

"My instincts are that Steve Bisciotti is going to be an outstanding owner in the NFL," Modell said last week. "I think he's got a love for the game, he's strong, he's going to be a good one. Trust me on that. That's my call. You'll come back in two years from now and say, `Gee, Art, you were right, for a change.'

"My legacy will be a successful Bisciotti."

By completing the $600 million deal, Bisciotti, who turns 44 tomorrow, becomes the third youngest owner in the league behind the Washington Redskins' Daniel Snyder and the Cleveland Browns' Randy Lerner. The Severna Park native founded Aerotek (now known as the Allegis Group), one of the world's leading technical staffing firms.

Bisciotti, who may make the rounds with local media in the coming weeks, is expected to remain in the background after the sale. He said he doesn't want to be a hands-on owner in the decision-making process and wants to keep a low profile publicly in team matters.

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