The NFL will examine the financial structure of the San Francisco 49ers at a hearing in mid-June to determine if it gives the Super Bowl champions an unfair edge, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said today.
In 1988 the team became a subsidiary of the DeBartolo Corp., which also owns shopping malls, race tracks and real estate. There has been a question of whether the corporation gives the 49ers a financial advantage over other teams in signing players.
Tagliabue said his personal opinion is "that it's doubtful that it does. It (the corporation) was not formed until Sept. 30, 1988, and that was after the 49ers had won two Super Bowls with a quarterback named Joe Montana and a coach named Bill Walsh. I'm skeptical that it has produced a competitive advantage to the 49ers."
But the hearing will be held in Tagliabue's office because of some concerns by some owners. No specific date has been set for the hearing.
"The league put in a policy many years ago that an NFL team should be owned only by companies in football," Tagliabue said.
The commissioner has the power to levy a fine of as much as $500,000 and take away draft choices from a team found in violation of the policy.
He hinted that wasn't likely in the 49ers' case.
"I don't have a hysterical view of the subject like some people do," Tagliabue said. "I'm doubtful that the 49ers situation is anti-competitive."
"We're trying to improve the ownership structure," he added. "The owners feel we should be traditional and conservative with our ownership structures."
49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. didn't attend the meetings at Las Colinas Resort and Club.
Ownership policy was one of the final issues discussed as the owners ended their annual spring business meeting. The owners did not discuss expansion.
"We had other things that were a higher priority," said Tagliabue, who reiterated he did not anticipate expansion before the 1993 season.