Myles Tanenbaum, who once sought to join the NFL through an antitrust lawsuit, now is trying to gain entry in a more conventional way. He's trying to buy his way in.
Tanenbaum, a Philadelphia businessman who brought his U.S. Football League Stars to the Baltimore area in 1985, is part of an ownership group trying to purchase the New England Patriots and move them to Hartford, Conn.
He recently was added to the group by Fran Murray, its chief investor.
"Myles will be with me wherever I am," Murray said. "We are dear friends."
Murray actually is involved with two prospective ownership groups, one in Hartford and one in St. Louis seeking an expansion team. He explains the apparent conflict in ownership bids this way: "My most optimistic dream is to sell my St. Louis interest if awarded a franchise and acquire the Patriots and move them to Hartford."
Jerry Clinton, the lead investor in the St. Louis expansion effort, says Tanenbaum has not been invited to join his group, however.
"He's not my guy, I'm telling you that right now," Clinton told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Tanenbaum did not return phone messages to his Philadelphia office.
Tanenbaum's football association with Baltimore was fleeting. He owned the Philadelphia Stars in the USFL, and in 1983 and 1984, they played at Veterans Stadium. In 1985, the spring league announced plans to move its season to the fall in competition with the NFL. Anticipating a forced merger with the NFL, Tanenbaum claimed Baltimore as his home territory. That precipitated an awkward arrangement in 1985, when the Stars practiced in Philadelphia and played at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium.
The merger attempt fell apart in 1986, though, when the USFL was awarded $3 in antitrust damages from a lawsuit against the NFL and disbanded.
Murray sees Hartford as a solution to the Patriots' problems in Foxboro, Mass. And he says the league strongly wants to keep the Patriots in New England.
"Every indication is they are absolutely committed to doing all they can to make that happen, and preserve that region for football and the TV market within," he said. "It is the motivating force."
Although the Patriots usually do not sell out their games at Foxboro Stadium, and therefore are often blacked out in the Boston market, a move to Hartford would place them outside the 75-mile blackout radius. All games, whether sellouts or not, then could be broadcast back to Boston. The league's television contract is up after this season.
There has been speculation that Patriots owner James Busch Orthwein, who once led the expansion effort in St. Louis, might move the team to Missouri if the city does not gain an expansion franchise.
Murray would be president and chief executive officer of the Hartford group. Along with Tanenbaum, other partners would include Isadore Becker of West Palm Beach, Fla.; Harold M. Cerra of Key Biscayne, Fla.; and Murray's brother, Jim, former general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles.