Patriots to Tagliabue: Don't interfere


BOSTON -- New England Patriots owner James Busch Orthwein has written a letter to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue warning him not to interfere with the team's sale.

Lawyer Walter L. Metcalfe of St. Louis, who represents Orthwein, confirmed that a letter was sent to Tagliabue. "I do not want to say what is in it," Metcalfe said. "If the league wants to say anything, ask them."

Reportedly, the letter tells Tagliabue and the 27 other team owners that Orthwein believes he has grounds for a lawsuit against the NFL, if he so chooses, for trying to keep him from moving the Patriots out of New England.

Orthwein reportedly said in the letter that he has no agreement with the league not to move the team and was upset that Tagliabue said Tuesday that there was an agreement.

Orthwein, who favored St. Louis, made it clear that he was upset with the process that awarded the expansion team to Jacksonville, Fla.

When St. Louis failed, Orthwein, a St. Louis native who until recently was a prime mover in the city's expansion bid, told reporters he would not move the Patriots and would sell the club, saying he was "sick of football and the NFL."

Orthwein has owned the Patriots since April 1992. He said at the time that he bought the team to gain an inside position in helping St. Louis obtain a team and that if that happened, he would sell the Patriots. Even when St. Louis was bypassed last week, he continued to say he was a seller, and this appears to be the case. Orthwein has hired Goldman Sachs of New York, a top financial investment firm, to sell the team.

The letter also reportedly says the league would be guilty of antitrust violations if it tried to prevent Orthwein from moving the team or from selling to someone who would want to move it.

However, Tagliabue, league president Neil Austrian and several owners insist that the purchase agreement with Orthwein stipulates that 21 owners would have to vote for a Patriots move.

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