New York businessman Robert Tisch took himself out of the Baltimore expansion picture yesterday when he purchased 50 percent of the New York Giants, but he and city officials contended that the move won't hurt Baltimore's chances of getting a National Football League expansion franchise.
Tisch, who said it was a "dream come true," to purchase a half-interest in a team from his hometown, said he'd still support Baltimore's expansion effort.
"Obviously, I think Baltimore is a great city and I'll do everything I can to help Baltimore. I hope the owners decide Baltimore should be the one."
Herbert Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said Tisch's purchase into the Giants vindicated Baltimore's decision not to officially align itself with any one owner.
"I think time has proven that was the right decision," Belgrad said.
He welcomed Tisch's support from within the league as a plus for the city, saying, "The fact that he's now on the inside rather than the outside can be very beneficial."
Tisch's departure means the groups led by Ed Hale, the owner of the Baltimore Blast, and Bart Starr, the former Green Bay Packers quarterback, are likely to vault to the front, although the NFL has a two-step process of picking the city first, then selecting the owner.
Both Hale and Phyllis Brotman, the Baltimore advertising executive who is a member of the Starr group, expressed optimism about their chances of becoming the owner of a Baltimore team if the city gets one.
Hale noted he'll head the only completely local group attempting to get a franchise. He said that John Paterakis, the bakery company executive who was part of the group that tried to buy the New Orleans Saints in 1984, has joined his group along with what he said were some "very recognizable names in the community." He said he wasn't at liberty to identify them now.
The Starr-Brotman group includes Colorado Springs, Colo., developer Tom Stoen, retired real estate developer John Colbrunn, former American Football League commissioner Joe Foss and two former football players, Willie Davis and Johnny Unitas. She also said some Baltimore executives are being put together to join the group.
Nathan Landow, a Maryland real estate developer, has expressed interest in the past in owning a Baltimore team and was once aligned with Tisch, but was traveling yesterday and not available for comment.
Although Baltimore had never aligned itself with Tisch, the perception around the country is likely to be that his departure will be a setback for the city's chances.
But Belgrad said: "I think we are the only potential expansion city that has the funding mechanism in hand to move forward with the construction of a [football] stadium."
He said Baltimore is moving forward in its expansion effort and that he'll head the city's delegation to the annual meetings next month. The league has indicated it hopes to add two teams by the 1993 season.
Hale said he'd also like to see the stadium domed so it could include an indoor arena. He said concessionaires have shown interest in funding that part of the project
Tisch's purchase of half of the Giants is the latest in a series of developments on the expansion front in the last week.
St. Louis suffered a setback last week when a a Missiouri legislative subcommittee turned down the funding for its proposed stadium although officials hope to overturn that vote next month. In Memphis, Tenn., Tuesday, Fred Smith of Federal Express made the surprising announcement that he is no longer interested in owning an expansion team but that he'll support Memphis' effort.
Tisch said there will be no changes in the operation of the Giants now that he has purchased 50 percent of the team from Mrs. Helen Mara Nugent, her son, Tim, and daughter, Maura Mara Concannon. The other half is owned by Wellington Mara.
Wellington and his nephew, Tim, have feuded for years and aren't on speaking terms. When they couldn't agree on a general manager in 1979, former commissioner Pete Rozelle recommended George Young for the job. He was hired and built the club into one of the best in the league.
The Giants are the only team in the league in which two men own exactly 50 percent of the franchise, but Tisch said Wellington Mara will have the vote in league meetings.