PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Anne Arundel County businessman Stephen Bisciotti bought himself an early birthday present yesterday.
Bisciotti, who turns 40 on April 10, was given unanimous approval to buy 49 percent of the Ravens -- with an option to buy the other 51 percent in four years -- by the 31 NFL owners at their annual March meetings yesterday.
"We've got a winner and the league has a winner," Ravens owner Art Modell said as he introduced Bisciotti at a news conference after the owners approved the transaction as their first order of business.
Bisciotti, who is paying $275 million for a minority interest and will pay an additional $325 million for the remaining 51 percent in four to six years, said the purchase was "an opportunity to fulfill a lifetime dream."
Bisciotti has no problem waiting four years to take control of the team, but wouldn't have purchased it if he had to take over immediately.
"If he wanted to leave right away, I wouldn't have been one of the bidders," he said.
Bisciotti said his children are 14 and 12, and he wants to spend time with them now before they go off to college. He added that his fast-growing company, which is projected to have $3.7 billion in revenues this year, needs a lot of his attention in the coming years.
The company, which recently changed its name from Aerotek to Allegis, was described by Bisciotti as the largest privately owned staffing company in the world, with 60,000 employees.
Bisciotti also likes to stay in the background. He declined a request for a one-on-one interview after the news conference.
Bisciotti, who described his duties as "water boy" for the next four years, said he'll even give Modell a fifth year to run the team if the Ravens win the Super Bowl in January 2004.
"We're going to have to let him stay around for a repeat," said Bisciotti, who has a two-year window to exercise his option, which opens in spring 2004. The clock will start ticking when the two sides reach settlement in the next week.
Bisciotti also said that Modell will be around the team "forever," and Modell said he could stay on as a $1 a year employee "in any way possible."
When Bisciotti was asked about bringing local ownership to the Ravens, he said, "Local ownership doesn't mean anything if it's not skilled local ownership. Right now, I don't have the skills to run a professional football team."
Bisciotti said he hopes to learn from Modell and his son, David, over the next four years.
"I can sit back and learn from one of the icons. Having Art Modell in our city is a great gift to Baltimore and a great gift to me personally," he said.
He added, "I have the luxury of having two generations of Modells [to learn from]. What Art doesn't know, David does."
Modell said that he originally had 18 strong inquiries about the franchise, and after the field was narrowed to 12, Bisciotti was the only one who was willing to let him run the team for four more years.
Modell said there were two reasons he wanted the four-year window.
First, it will give him the chance to experience what he called an "emotional meltdown."
Modell, who bought the Cleveland Browns in 1961 and moved them to Baltimore in 1996, said, "You don't walk away after 40 years without some pulling of the heartstrings."
Second, he wants to win a Super Bowl before he turns the team over to Bisciotti.
"I wanted one more shot at the big enchilada, which has eluded us for years and years," he said.
Ravens coach Brian Billick said there is no feeling within the organization that Modell is any kind of a lame duck, and that it will be business as usual for the team.
"There's no lame-duck mentality here. Ozzie Newsome [the vice president of player personnel] and I have a very clear, definite parameters as to what our operation structure is going to be for the next four years. There is no ambiguity in any way, shape or form about this being the Baltimore Ravens' and Modell's team," Billick said.
NOTES: New York Jets coach Al Groh Jets repeated that he has no interest in trading wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and didn't mean to suggest otherwise when he said in a statement last week that he wasn't interested in trading Johnson "at this time." Groh said, "That's my story and I'm sticking to it." Billick said teams have inquired about the fifth pick in the draft, held by the Ravens, even though most teams appear to be leery about the pick. "People have called. There's been interest, so we'll fine out how substantive it is," Billick said. The Ravens were disappointed they didn't get any compensatory draft picks even though they lost such high-priced free agents as Orlando Brown, Wally Williams and James Jones last off-season. The NFL canceled out those losses by counting the lower-priced free agents the Ravens signed.