Maryland-based author Tom Clancy -- who once led an effort to bring an NFL expansion team to Baltimore -- has filed a bid to buy the New England Patriots and move them to Hartford, Conn., say several sources familiar with the offer.
Mr. Clancy is the majority owner of the group, which would include a number of other investors, possibly including Walter Payton, the retired Hall of Fame running back who was involved last summer with the St. Louis expansion bid. Mr. Payton has discussed the matter with Clancy.
The bid would appear to put Mr. Clancy into conflict with a rival offer by a group of Baltimore investors who hope to move the team here.
Mr. Clancy was unavailable for comment yesterday, but a source familiar with the team sale said the author filed the bid after becoming convinced that the Patriots would not be allowed to leave New England.
New York Giants co-owner Robert Tisch, who said he was aware of the Clancy bid, agreed that the league likely would oppose the loss of the huge New England television market (Boston is the nation's sixth-largest). Some legal experts dispute the ability of the league to control franchise relocations.
Connecticut has pledged to build a stadium in Hartford if an NFL team moves there.
Mr. Clancy is also a major, but minority investor in the Orioles. Mr. Clancy believes the Patriots purchase would not affect his Orioles standing because he is not the controlling partner, insulating him from the cross-ownership rules in both sports, one source said.
Mr. Clancy, who lives in Calvert County, led one of three investment groups that filed forms to own an expansion team in Baltimore. He dropped out to pursue the Orioles purchase last summer, and the league subsequently awarded franchises to Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.
"We would be a lot more excited about it if he was trying to bring the team to Baltimore," said Page W. Boinest, press secretary for Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
The other Maryland investors who filed to own the Patriots
remain a mystery, although H&S; Bakery owner John Paterakis is believed to be involved.
The owner of the Patriots, James Busch Orthwein, bought the team two years ago to protect a loan he'd made to one of its owners. He said from the start that he wanted to stabilize the money-losing franchise and sell it, preferably to Boston-based investors.
But his efforts to persuade the Massachusetts legislature to build a new stadium for the team have bogged down in budget debates. An agreement on a $700 million convention center/domed stadium for Boston has been reached in recent weeks between legislative leaders and Gov. William Weld.
However, action on the bill, which has been postponed several times, was delayed again yesterday. The chairman of the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee, an opponent of the project, said yesterday he wants more study on the bill before his committee acts on it.
Bids for the Patriots also have been filed on behalf of ownership groups in Boston and St. Louis. Mr. Orthwein's attorney, Walter Metcalfe, said Mr. Orthwein wants to sell the team this month.