While Francis W. Murray was hacking his way around a Florida golf course last week, attorneys for the two St. Louis groups seeking an NFL expansion franchise met for the first time.
"They indicated a desire to affect, in their words, 'a settlement,' " Murray said yesterday. "That's the last I've heard of it. To this point, I know of no offer."
The St. Louis effort to acquire a team has made headlines for several months as the prospective ownership group has changed a handful of times. When the first group, the St. Louis NFL Partnership that Murray currently heads, couldn't find a major investor, a second group appeared Oct. 25 -- the eve of the NFL meetings. As a result, only one of two new franchises was selected -- the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C..
The second group, led by developer L. Stanley Kroenke, first approached Murray last week. Lawyers met Thursday at the office of James Shoemake, Murray's St. Louis attorney, and discussions are continuing.
Murray, who along with St. Louis beer distributor Jerry Clinton initiated the St. Louis effort, says his group is in line for a team. The Kroenke group, which has a number of investors, has wondered publicly if Murray has the $140 million needed for a franchise.
According to reports in St. Louis, the Kroenke group has offered the original partnership about $8 million to step aside.
If a settlement occurs, it will have to come soon. The league's deadline for a franchise agreement -- and the $20 million letter of credit -- is Monday. The second expansion franchise will be awarded Nov. 30 at a meeting near Chicago.
Murray said the original group, which includes Clinton, New England Patriots owner James Busch Orthwein and former running back Walter Payton, is intact but that several state investors may be tapped.