Jim Speros was the man who stood front and center when pro football returned to Baltimore last year with the Canadian Football League. But Dr. Michael Gelfand, a kidney specialist in the Washington area, was the silent partner who made it happen.
Gelfand supplied $2 million of the $2.5 million franchise fee, and Marv Stursa, who runs an equipment business for heavy construction in Glen Burnie, kicked in $500,000.
Under terms he established, Speros is general partner and president. He said he controls 51 percent of team stock and is responsible for management decisions. Gelfand controls 40 percent, Stursa 8 percent, and former Baltimore Colts running back Tom Matte 1 percent, although Matte has no capital invested.
Gelfand, who assumed a low profile last year, became more involved in the off-season. He was named chairman of the CFL Expansion Committee, and once, during futile negotiations to relocate the Las Vegas Posse in Jackson, Miss., offered to help a potential investor obtain financing. He said he was never close to leaving Speros' group, though, and is satisfied with his role.
"I'm very content," said Gelfand, a senior partner in a nephrology practice in Bethesda. "I have no desire to run the football team. We have a very positive working relationship, whereby Jim and I speak four to five times a week. He keeps me informed on a regular basis. . . . All the shareholders are very satisfied in the job he's doing running the team."
Gelfand practices medicine in Bethesda, but his residence is in Palm Beach, Fla. He said he splits his time evenly between the two locations.
Speros set up his investment group to have Gelfand and Stursa pay the expansion fee rather than finance that sum.
"Michael Gelfand brought $2 million to the table," Speros said. "I brought far more than that to the table. I brought ticket reservations of roughly 13,000 season tickets. I also brought over $1 million of corporate sponsorships.
"I have half a million of my own money in the deal. And I created a $4 million operating account to kick the team off with. . . . Plus, I reduced the franchise fee by $500,000 through work in my first year."
Speros said Gelfand is obligated to put a total of $3.4 million into the team for his 40 percent share. Speros said he is at risk in the arrangement, not the limited partners.
"If I lose, I lose everything I've got," he said. "If they lose, they still keep their nice homes, and life goes on. It's a bad investment for them, but Jim Speros is ruined."