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Baltimore May Have Found Right Man

Baltimore Evening Sun

Let Bob Tisch, whose presence commands attention, merely express a desire to own a National Football League team in Baltimore and it will happen. He has all the prerequisites--the character, the currency and the connections. And if he completes a tentative game plan it will be as the 51% owner.

That’s a new development in the proceedings, but is actually the only way he would agree to be involved. No minority partnership or 50-50 deal for him. Besides, the league insists on having one individual in control, which minimizes confusion and consternation and clearly defines the role of authority.

It’s not likely Tisch would be interested in a minority role because that wouldn’t give him much more than a rooting interest and the chance to wave a pennant at kickoff time. Tisch’s impressive personal and business record belies such a minimal identification in the NFL. He wants much more than that.

Nathan Landow, a Bethesda, Md., developer, who earlier tried to unite with a Baltimore group led by John Paterakis and Larry Rachuba, said that Tisch is interested in joining him. The two made plans to to discuss details of a possible alignment.

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The Landow-Tisch conversations have been going on for a considerable period of time, only Landow, for some reason, didn’t say so. Last Friday, Landow, who only the day before said he was not locked into a set arrangement for bringing an expansion franchise to Baltimore, disclosed that Tisch might be the one to join him in the effort. He emphasized this would not alter a plan to have Vernon Jordan Jr., past president of the National Urban League, included in the ownership lineup.

Tisch, meanwhile, has definite plans to attend the NFL owners meetings next week in Palm Springs. Landow said he might “go for a day or two.” So Tisch, who will be visiting the convention scene but not involved in the business agenda, is currently regarded as the likely owner of any new Baltimore team, providing his interest doesn’t wane.

The surprise in the latest projected scenario is that Tisch would want a partner because he is fully equipped to handle it alone. He is a man of extensive business interests and enjoys high-profile influence. His financial worth has been estimated at $850 million, which means, if pressed, he could write a check for a down payment on the entire league . . . not just an expansion team.

Tisch serves as president and co-chief executive officer of the Loews Corp., which controls such diverse subsidiaries as Lorillard, Inc., manufacturers of Newport, Kent, Old Gold and other brands of cigarettes; the CNA Financial Corp., the Bulova Watch Co., and operators of an extensive hotel chain, including the Regency and Summit in New York, Harbour Cove in the Bahamas, LaNapoule in France and the Monte Carlo in Monaco.

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The 62-year-old Tisch attended Bucknell University for two years and, after military service, graduated from the University of Michigan, class of 1948. Tisch and his older brother, Laurence, are the largest stockholders in CBS, which has been aligned with pro football during its phenomenal growth of the last 30 years, or since Commissioner Pete Rozelle succeeded the late Bert Bell in 1960.

Rozelle and Tisch, a former Postmaster General of the United States, are friends of long-standing in Harrison, N.Y., where both families live. It has been a desire of Tisch to become apart of the game and he gave thought to buying the Dallas Cowboys before it was sold to Jerry Jones for $140 million. However, he decided that even by plane the trip was too long and time consuming from his New York base and turned away from early negotiations.

With Baltimore, which is an easy commute from New York, it would be a comfortable and far less-taxing experience. Besides, Baltimore, which had a 35-year history of pro football before it was plundered in 1984, is the only city, among seven candidates, aspiring for an expansion team to have a new stadium already approved by the governor and legislature.

A 65,000 seat football facility, without a wall behind it, which is going to spoil the planned baseball park for the Baltimore Orioles, is on hold. It awaits only the NFL decision that Baltimore is one of the two cities picked for expansion. The football stadium from a physical standpoint has a chance to be far superior to the baseball construction.

The push for team expansion, which has been slowed by the fact there has not been a collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the players’ association, could come about at the October meeting of the NFL. It’s doubtful, however, if anything will be decided at the meeting next week, although the Maryland Stadium Authority will be represented by chairman Herbert Belgrad, plus Pam Shriver, the tennis playing goodwill ambassador who is from one of Maryland’s oldest families and is such a pleasure to know and be around.

There has been talk of expansion, but not from Rozelle, even coming about in 1990 or 1991 so Baltimore is in an ideal position.

It was Landow who said, “We (Baltimore) have a hell of a shot.”

If Tisch is involved, with or without Landow, it would almost be a foregone conclusion.

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