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Bidders for Coliseum Pact Protest Delays

December 03, 1987|KENNETH REICH | Times Staff Writer

Representatives of the two business groups bidding to privately manage the Los Angeles Coliseum complex said Wednesday that the Coliseum Commission has delayed so long in choosing a manager that any chance of keeping the Los Angeles Raiders at the stadium may vanish.

Tom Houston, former deputy Los Angeles mayor, representing the MCA Inc.-Spectacor bid, and Harry Usher, president of Weintraub International, representing the Weintraub-Madison Square Garden bid, declared separately that the commission is getting bogged down in such intricate procedures that opportunities are being lost.

Joining in the criticism at the commission's monthly meeting was Anthony Lazzaro, USC senior vice president, representing that major Coliseum tenant, who told the commission that it has "lost its sense of urgency" in the matter of putting the Coliseum and adjacent Sports Arena on a new management footing.

Commission President Alexander Haagen, who was accused by the Raiders and some commission members of responsibility for lengthy delays last spring that contributed to the collapse of a renovation plan that might have kept the Raiders from announcing the move to Irwindale, took exception to Wednesday's latest criticisms.

But at Haagen's suggestion, the commission adopted a new, complicated set of procedures for dealing with the private management question that promises to put a decision off until well into 1988.

To Recommend Consultant

Under the plan adopted, a commission subcommittee is supposed to recommend to the full commission sometime next week a consultant to review the private management bids and possibly recommend a preferred bidder. If the commission approves, the consultant would then conduct talks with the bidder or bidders and return to the commission with his recommendation. It will be up to the commission to decide whether to enter into a private management contract, or to seek talks with the other bidder.

Representatives of both bidders complained sharply that this convoluted procedure is not what they had initially been told would happen.

Both said they had been assured that once they had submitted their bids and made an oral presentation, the commission itself would designate a preferred bidder and open negotiations directly with it.

Houston said that problems the Raiders and Irwindale have been having in consummating their deal--a preliminary court injunction requiring an environmental impact report and impediments in marketing bonds--have left "what could be a crucial opening" for persuading the Raiders to remain at the Coliseum.

"You are stretching this process out to the point you may have no chance of getting the Raiders back," Houston said. "It may well become impossible to ever strike a deal."

Usher agreed, telling reporters, "There's a window of opportunity for keeping the Raiders and it's very important to the people of Los Angeles not to let that opportunity slip by."

When Haagen insisted that time is necessary to take an "orderly look at both (bidders) and then make a choice of how to proceed," USC's Lazzaro said the slow pace worries him.

Sees Long Delay

He said that unless the commission moves ahead, "you're going to be talking about this in January and February."

"I don't know how we can go any faster," said Haagen, who has expressed reservations about the proposed move to private management.

Despite the talk about negotiating with the Raiders, the team's management has insisted publicly several times in recent weeks that it is sticking with Irwindale and is not interested in resuming negotiations with the Coliseum Commission, which is suing the team for $57 million for breach of contract.

In that litigation, the Raiders on Wednesday asked the Superior Court to issue a gag order to make sure that Raider business secrets being provided to the plaintiffs not fall into the hands of the press and public.

Raider attorney Jeffrey Birren told the court, "The business of professional sports is highly competitive and the internal documents of a team are therefore highly confidential."

He asked, for example, that plans obtained by the team for improving the Coliseum, at a cost of $1.2 million, be kept secret.

Coliseum Commission attorney Marshall Grossman responded that the Raiders "are acting like a bunch of babies" in the matter.

"They want to maintain the highest possible public image, but now they seek to keep the public from knowing what they are doing," he said.

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