Modell is looking to sell 20 to 30 percent of his franchise to pay down its debt. He wants to retain control of the team and pass it on to his children.
Modell has hired an investment bank to pursue a partner. A prospectus is being prepared, and Modell plans to complete the deal by early next year. Modell said he hasn't determined a price yet -- estimates have ranged from $100 million to $150 million -- but he wants someone he can work comfortably with.
"I will take less money for the right man," he said.
Cosby has appeared as a guest of Modell's at a few Ravens games in Baltimore going back to the first season. He also attended a number of Browns games in Cleveland. The two men were introduced by a mutual friend, actor Jack Lemmon.
"Bill is a friend of mine," Modell said.
Modell said he and his advisers have not begun contacting prospective candidates yet, but may do so soon. "I haven't even thought of Bill, but he might be on a very short list of people I would contact," Modell said.
Cosby was a partner in a group that unsuccessfully bid last year for the expansion Cleveland Browns. He pledged $25 million for 5 percent of the franchise, which was to be controlled by brothers Larry and Charles Dolan.
Charles Dolan, the founder of Cablevision, a New York-based cable television empire, is a longtime friend of Modell's. The group was actively supported by Modell, but was outbid by financier Al Lerner. The new Browns took the field for the first time this preseason.
Cosby's spokesman said he was unable to obtain a comment from the actor yesterday.
Last year, Cosby told the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Through Jack, I liked Art. I talked to and with Art."
Cosby is a Philadelphia native who played football for Temple University. He is one of the world's wealthiest entertainers, having starred in, written or produced several top-rated television shows. His name surfaced several times in connection to possible sports team ownership -- including turning down an offer to purchase part of his hometown Eagles several years ago -- but the Browns deal was his first formal bid.
At the time, Cosby issued a statement saying: "While I have long had an interest in professional sports, I have always felt that I would only take on the responsibility of a partial ownership role if I found a situation where my involvement could be worthwhile from more than just an investment perspective."
He said he would view the position of part owner as an opportunity to promote civic and social values.
Pub Date: 9/10/99