One of Baltimore's best shots at returning to the NFL in a decade was on the verge of collapse yesterday as Malcolm Glazer -- a one-time Baltimore booster -- neared a deal for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After a full day of negotiations, which saw representatives for both sides shuttle between Tampa law offices, the team announced it was close to a deal, but had not reached one and wouldn't until Monday at the earliest.
If the deal is consummated, Mr. Glazer, whose unsuccessful courtship of sports teams had led some to brand him a "tire
"We've made a lot of progress. I would say we are close," Steve Story, one of three trustees selling the team for the estate of late owner Hugh Culverhouse, told reporters in Tampa last night. "We are as close to two sides agreeing as any one has been along the way.
"There are substantial issues that are unresolved that will have to be resolved. . . . We do not have a deal."
Mr. Story said the two sides would not meet again until Monday, at which time, he said, "I think I'll know one way or the other if they are in or out."
One rival bidder acknowledged the lead Mr. Glazer appears to have taken. Baltimore attorney Robert B. Schulman, who represented an unidentified group, said he got a call last night from Mr. Story assuring him that he was still in the running.
But Mr. Schulman said he came away with the impression that the Glazers and the Bucs are "wrapping it up."
"I just think they spent so much time with the Glazers that it can't be that they aren't ultimately interested in a deal with Glazer," Mr. Schulman said.
But Mr. Schulman's Jacksonville-based partner, attorney Terry Moore, told the Tampa Tribune that they would talk over the weekend about sweetening their offer.
Mr. Angelos, managing partner of the Orioles, held out hope that the deal would not be completed with Mr. Glazer and that Baltimore was still in the game.
"I haven't been told that the club has been sold to anybody," he said. "I hear a lot of sound and fury.
"We made an offer that should be very attractive to the trustees."
Mr. Story would not reveal details of Mr. Glazer's offer, but did say it contained penalties if the team is moved out of town. Two sources familiar with the talks said they believed Mr. Glazer has offered $175 million up front, and another $20 million if a new stadium is built, or $30 million or $35 million if he moves it out of town.
"I only have one comment to make, simply that the Glazers are committed to having this team stay in Tampa . . . and that means forever," said Mr. Glazer, who tried to help Baltimore win an NFL expansion franchise.
His offer appears similar in several respects to the bid made by Mr. Angelos. He has offered $205 million for the team, if he is able to move the franchise to Baltimore.
Mr. Angelos also offered to put down a $10 million deposit. In the event he can't move the team, Mr. Angelos will either pay another $160 million, for a total sale price of $170 million, and keep the team in Tampa, or forfeit $7.5 million -- and the team -- to the trustees.
But the trustees said they want no part of a sale conditioned on a move. "Our ultimate desire is to keep it here if we can justify it with the price," Mr. Story said last night.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has said he did not want the team to move, and that Mr. Angelos' Orioles interest ran afoul of the NFL's prohibition on team owners investing in other major league sports.
Mr. Angelos has a plan for that also: He will ask for the same probationary approval the league granted Wayne Huizenga, owner of baseball's Florida Marlins, hockey's Florida Panthers and football's Miami Dolphins, while the NFL reviews its ownership policy.
And if necessary, Mr. Angelos has told the Buccaneers, he is willing to buy out Tom Clancy's Orioles' ownership share, and Clancy would own the football team.
Mr. Angelos' co-investors include such Baltimore luminaries as Crown Central Petroleum Chairman Henry Rosenberg, Duty Free International Chairman David Bernstein, Diamond Comic Distributors President Stephen Geppi and H&S; Bakery chief John Paterakis.
Mr. Glazer lives in Palm Beach, on the other side of the state, and has tried to buy sports teams in Boston, San Diego and Pittsburgh.
Mr. Steinbrenner, controlling partner of the New York Yankees, made a last-minute bid for the Buccaneers Thursday night, apparently out of concern that Mr. Glazer is not from Tampa. But the bid was not complete, and did not contain the names of any co-investors.