After trying for months to sell a minority interest in his Philadelphia Eagles, Leonard Tose has agreed to sell out entirely to Miami auto dealer Norman Braman for $65 million, a source close to the NFL team said Wednesday.
"The price is for 100% of the Eagles' assets," the source told the Associated Press. "They hope to have the agreement wrapped up in a couple of days."
Tose, reportedly $42 million in debt, has been trying to sell a share of the National Football League franchise for more than a year, but he insisted on retaining control in previous negotiations with prospective buyers.
He faces a deadline of April 1 on a $12-million note from the Crocker Bank of California, which has threatened to foreclose on the Eagles if Tose defaults.
Braman, a 48-year-old Pennsylvania native, owns 16 auto dealerships in southern Florida and stated in a 1981 financial disclosure form that his net worth was $24.1 million. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
"They are in discussion," the source said. "We think something should be announced shortly."
Tose and his daughter, Susan Fletcher, who is the Eagles' vice president and general counsel, were both in Miami Wednesday, reportedly closing the deal.
Fletcher, reached at their hotel, said she had no comment on the latest reports. "It's our prerogative to keep financial information to ourselves," she said.
Any deal to sell the team would need approval from 21 of the 28 NFL team owners, who will meet Monday at Phoenix. League spokesman Jim Heffernan said the approval process would start with a background check of any new owner, once Tose served notice of an impending sale.
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle told the New York Times Tuesday that he had heard that Tose had been "talking on and off" with Braman.
"But so far," Rozelle said, "no names have been submitted to us. Once Leonard calls us and tells us what he has done, we can begin the process of investigating the new ownership."
No matter who owns the Eagles, the team is required by its new stadium lease to remain in Philadelphia, according to a city spokeswoman. Tose came close to moving the Eagles to Phoenix while negotiating with Canadian businessman James Monaghan in December.
But Mayor W. Wilson Goode assembled a package of concessions involving the use of Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, and Tose agreed to stay. The 24-year lease includes a performance clause requiring the Eagles to remain in the city, said Karen Warrington, Goode's press secretary.
Joe Robbie, owner of the NFL's Miami Dolphins and a friend of Braman, was quoted in Miami and Philadelphia newspapers as saying that Braman has been involved in "around-the-clock" negotiations with Tose and his representatives.
According to Robbie, the deal would not involve moving the team from Philadelphia. He also said he would support Braman's application "enthusiastically."
The latest negotiations to break off involved a group that included Ed Snider, president of the National Hockey League's Philadelphia Flyers, and former U.S. Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis.
That deal reportedly had a price tag of $57 million to $60 million for a share of the Eagles that would grow to majority ownership in the future. The major stumbling block reportedly involved Tose's insistence on retaining control of the day-to-day operations.
Braman, a native of West Chester, Pa., grew up in Philadelphia, where his father, Harry, owned a barbershop until his death in 1976. In 1957, Braman founded Philadelphia Pharmaceuticals and Chemicals Inc.