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Baltimore among five to make Bucs' first cut

THE BALTIMORE SUN

TAMPA, Fla. -- Baltimore is one of five cities that has completed the first round of negotiations to purchase the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to a member of the team's board of trustees.

Jack Donlan, one of the three members on the board charged by the late Hugh Culverhouse with selling the team, told the Tampa Tribune that Tampa, Toronto, St. Louis, Orlando, Fla., and Baltimore are the five cities.

St. Louis is the front-runner in the bidding for the Los Angeles Rams, but has expressed an interest in the Bucs in case the Rams deal falls apart.

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers trustees are moving ahead.

"What we have done so far is hold our preliminary talks with those who have expressed interest in ownership," Donlan said. "We have tried to eliminate the wannabes. Now, we are preparing our financials, as are the serious bidders. We have completed Round 1. Round 2 is coming up. Not sure how many rounds it will take."

Donlan said the trust is not obligated to sell to parties interested in keeping the team in Tampa.

"Hypothetically, say we act to sell to a Tampa group at something under value to [what] an outside bidder [would pay]. Say, after a couple of years, the new owner doesn't have the support he wants, and he sells at a higher price and the team HTC moves. Would we have done our job, selling at the lower price?" Donlan said.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who is attempting to bring the Buccaneers to Baltimore, said last night, "I'm pleased, but not surprised" to find Baltimore among the final five. He said he will go to Tampa later this week to continue his talks.

"We expect to have a very serious discussion. The preliminaries are over," Angelos said.

Said Donlan: "My sense is we have a great asset here in this franchise. That has to be so because of all the extremes communities who have lost them -- St. Louis and Baltimore, for example -- are willing to go. . . ."

Donlan said the trustees hope to sell "before everything starts for next season," but could decide to operate the team for another year.

Another board member, Stephen Story, told the St. Petersburg Times there is no guarantee the trust will sell to the highest bidder.

"Relocation is certainly an issue the NFL would look at seriously. I don't know what the outside buyers would do to insulate us against that," Story said in an apparent reference to an NFL lawsuit to block a move.

The point man for one of the eight groups vying to buy the team and keep it in Tampa said the franchise isn't worth the $200 million that Angelos has offered.

"Frankly, the numbers we're hearing . . . we're having a difficult time making any sense of them," said Tampa businessman Thomas J. Shannon. "It sounds like this sale is being market-driven rather than driven by the economics of the team."

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