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Davis Interested in Moving Raiders

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Oakland Mayor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr. and Oakland Raider owner Al Davis met recently in secret and Davis “seems to be interested in moving the team,” Stacey Wells, the mayor’s spokeswoman said Friday.

“The city would very much like to keep the team in Oakland,” she said. But “it’s tough because of the number and complexity” of various lawsuits, and Davis indicated to the mayor he may simply move on--which the Raiders maintain they have the legal right to do.

Joseph M. Alioto, the Raiders’ attorney, said Friday that Oakland and Alameda County officials have failed to fulfill a promise to deliver sellout crowds. That, he said, gives the Raiders an out from their lease.

To move elsewhere, Alioto said, the Raiders must simply give notice within 90 days of the Super Bowl and agree to pay a “termination fee” of $500,000, though payment isn’t due until 2011.

R.D. Hubbard, chairman of Hollywood Park, which wooed the Raiders in 1995, said, “We’d heard of this possibility. If it is going to happen, we’d be interested in talking to them.”

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Wells’ comments were the first formal confirmation of the Raiders’ long-rumored intent to leave Oakland, even though they returned there in 1995 after a dozen years in Los Angeles. Team officials could not be reached Friday for comment.

And Alioto’s remarks indicate the speed with which a move might happen. The Super Bowl was played Jan. 31.

The NFL, meanwhile, has signaled that it will award an expansion team next month for play beginning in 2002, probably to Los Angeles.

In a continuing lawsuit filed in 1995 in federal court in Los Angeles, the Raiders contend they “own” the market here, saying they paid for it after moving from Oakland.

Houston is also in the running for a franchise, and boasts a proposal centering on a new stadium backed by $195 million in public money. Businessman Robert McNair has exclusive rights to a Houston franchise until Jan. 31, 2000.

At NFL owners’ meetings earlier this week in Atlanta, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said, “I don’t see the Raiders’ situation as a factor in Los Angeles. The Raiders have a long-term arrangement in Oakland and I think our priority would be to make that work up there.”

Alioto said Friday, “In this country, anybody is allowed to say anything they want. And Tagliabue usually does. And, as usual, he’s dead wrong.”

The claim that city and county officials fraudulently promised sellouts is at the core of the Raiders’ response to a lawsuit now lodged in Alameda County Superior Court.

City and county officials brought the suit against the team in the midst of the 1997 season, accusing the Raiders of threatening to break the 16-year lease they signed in 1995 and of blocking the sale of the Coliseum’s naming rights.

Brown and Davis met within a few days of the Super Bowl, mayoral spokeswoman Wells said, apparently to explore a settlement.

When the Raiders returned to Oakland, exuberant local officials declared the deal posed no threat to taxpayers. Now, though, sagging ticket sales and high ticket prices have led city and county officials to project a $21-million bill for debt service and operating costs this year alone.


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