Weinglass urges support of 1 ownership group Expansion notebook


For months, representatives of Baltimore's two ownership groups privately have been calling for a show of support from city organizers.

Now the request is in the open.

Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, co-founder of the Merry-Go-Round retail chain, says he's been trying to encourage Gov. William Donald Schaefer to endorse one ownership group to strengthen Baltimore's bid.

"The fact we're not getting behind one owner is hurting us," Weinglass said yesterday. "If they had been behind me from the opening bell, we wouldn't have this problem."

At issue is whether Baltimore's ownership groups are acceptable to 21 NFL owners -- the number it would take to be awarded a franchise on Nov. 30. On advice from the league office, Baltimore's expansion committee has declined to endorse the two current ownership groups, headed by Weinglass and Malcolm Glazer, a Florida businessman.

Weinglass, a Baltimore native, said he believes the lack of support has become a weakness in the city's expansion bid.

"The grass-roots people of Baltimore love me," he said. "They know I'd be a great owner. But the people who count the most do not support me.

"It's sad when an owner can't get support in his own town. . . . I'm very frustrated."

Schaefer, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and expansion committee members Herbert J. Belgrad and Mathias J. DeVito are expected to meet shortly to decide whether to make a change in policy in Baltimore's application. Belgrad has said the decision rests with Schaefer.

On Friday, the NFL instituted a deadline of Nov. 15 for ownership changes. The owners are scheduled to meet on Nov. 30 to pick the second expansion city.

Charlotte roadblock cleared

A potential roadblock to the provisional NFL franchise awarded to Charlotte, N.C., was cleared last week when the NFL Players Association agreed to a set of provisions regarding the city's innovative stadium finance proposal.

When the NFL awarded Charlotte an expansion franchise Oct. 26, it did so conditionally upon the resolution of certain legal issues -- one of which involved its stadium financing plan.

Charlotte plans to raise $150 million through the sale of one-time season-ticket fees, called "permanent seat licenses."

The players union raised concerns a few months ago that the money might qualify as a designated gross revenue under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement. If so, the money would have to be added to league revenues for the purpose of establishing a salary floor and cap. The result could be each team would have to designate millions of additional dollars to salaries.

But the league worked with the Charlotte group to ensure that stadium revenues would not enrich the club's owners. Documents were presented Wednesday to the union that show any money made by the stadium not used to operate it or pay off debt will be distributed to charities in the Carolinas. An official with the union, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it is satisfied with the arrangement, pending a full audit.

Application fees

The NFL says Nov. 15 is the cutoff date for ownership changes. It's also the deadline for owners to submit a $100,000 application fee, the financing plan for purchase of the expansion team and an active $20 million letter of credit.

Murray makes them nervous

The re-emergence of Fran Murray in St. Louis' ownership picture in Chicago last month has caused more than a few nervous moments for the rest of that city's expansion organizers. The fear is that Murray, who once was in partnership with Jerry Clinton and James Busch Orthwein, will end up suing various parties.

One St. Louis lawyer familiar with partnership law said he thinks Murray might be able to make a case if he is squeezed out. "An argument could be made that he does have some interest," Charles A. Seigel told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Seigel specializes in business litigation.

Murray claimed rights to the lease on St. Louis' downtown domed stadium that is under construction after first Orthwein, who owns the New England Patriots, and then Clinton, the managing general partner, pulled out of the group.

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