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Owner says Jaguars are not for sale

Times Staff Writer

The owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars said Thursday that contrary to a newspaper report his NFL team is not for sale or bound for Los Angeles.

“I’m not selling the Jaguars,” Wayne Weaver said in an interview. “The team is not moving to L.A. I don’t know how I can say that any more clearly than that.”

The Philadelphia Daily News, citing anonymous sources, reported Wednesday that Weaver was in negotiations with New Jersey billionaire C. Dean Metropoulos to sell the franchise. The Jaguars have long struggled to sell tickets and generate lucrative sponsorships in the Jacksonville area, fueling speculation the team could be sold to a group angling to bring them to Southern California.

Metropoulos, the former owner of the parent company of such food brands as Duncan Hines, Armour and Mrs. Paul’s, told the Daily News he has not been in negotiations with Weaver.

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But two sources told The Times that Metropoulos has been in contact with Jaguars ownership and, one said, has discussed a three-year acquisition plan that calls for him buying 30% of the team in each of the first two years and 40% in the third. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they have not been authorized to speak on behalf of Metropoulos or the Jaguars.

One of the sources said Metropoulos thought the $750 million asking price is too high, and the billionaire was also on a short list of potential candidates to buy the St. Louis Rams.

Weaver said he had not considered selling the entire franchise to anyone, only a minority interest. “That’s always an option,” he said. “But if I ever do that it will be with someone that shares the same commitment and passion to winning football and being a part of the Jacksonville partnership.”

The Jaguars, whose lease runs through 2030, can exercise an out clause if they can demonstrate in court that the franchise has lost money in three consecutive seasons. Experts have said that would be extremely difficult, though, given the team’s revenue situation. Even if the club exercised that out clause, it would be required to pay tens of millions in lost revenue such as rent, ticket surcharges and parking.

Weaver said the Jaguars have clearly sent the message they’re staying in Jacksonville.

“It’s a little bit frustrating when you think about how we’ve clearly demonstrated our commitment to this football team and to this community, by giving a lucrative contract to our coach, extending our quarterback to a long-term contract, spending freely in free agency, and extending a number of our core veteran players’ contracts,” he said.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com


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