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Glazer-Dodger Deal Hits a Snag

It appears difficult for Buccaneer boss to satisfy NFL and baseball parameters for cross-ownership.

June 11, 2003|Ross Newhan | Times Staff Writer

Although the sale of the Dodgers to Tampa Bay Buccaneer owner Malcolm Glazer remains possible, negotiations have been slowed -- if not significantly threatened -- by complex financing regulations in the NFL and Major League Baseball, high-ranking executives in both sports said Tuesday.

Whether Glazer, who is bidding about $360 million for the team, stadium and property, can overcome NFL rules that prohibit him from leveraging the Buccaneers and require him to use "independent resources" in the purchase of the Dodgers isn't clear, but one person familiar with the situation said that both the NFL and baseball have already rejected the submitted parameters of a Dodger sale to Glazer and asked the sides to reconstruct it, if possible.

Said a top NFL executive: "The [financing plan] that would satisfy baseball doesn't satisfy us, and the deal that would satisfy us doesn't satisfy baseball. There are definite problems."

Said one of three baseball executives who voiced a similar theme: "The deal isn't the sure thing that it appeared to be. That's not to say it won't happen, but they are basically in the process of trying to structure a deal that will conform to NFL and baseball rules. Can they do it? I don't know. The NFL has strict rules against cross-pollination, and we have our own issues that would have to be resolved."

Under NFL rules, Glazer isn't permitted to use the Buccaneers as equity.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, in a recent news conference with sports editors in New York, said Glazer or any NFL owner attempting a similar purchase, would have to use "independent resources" in the purchase of the team and "independent management" in the operation of it.

"There couldn't be direct or indirect involvement of the resources of the controlling owner of the NFL team," Tagliabue said. "There would have to be independent financing."

That financing, however, is only one of the problems facing Glazer, according to the officials from both leagues. There also are operational concerns. It is believed that Glazer, 74, would have his son, Edward, operate the Dodgers, raising the question of how independent such an operation would be. Edward Glazer lives in Beverly Hills and has been the point man in negotiations with the Dodgers, but there is concern among some NFL owners in regard to letting one of their own set up shop in the Los Angeles market, creating the potential for a franchise shell game at a time when the league is demonstrating a new commitment to putting a team in Los Angeles.

In addition, some baseball owners have been voicing quiet reservations about the possible Glazer purchase, particularly when Glazer's anonymity in a baseball context is weighed against the popularity of former Seattle Mariner owner Jeff Smulyan -- "a great guy whom we're all familiar with," one owner said Tuesday -- and who has not withdrawn his bid even though it hinges on News Corp., which owns the Dodgers, including six of its television stations in the deal. News Corp. notified Smulyan in mid-May that it is unwilling to do that, but the inability to close a deal with Glazer could prompt News Corp. to reconsider, a baseball official speculated, adding "it's difficult to predict what [News Corp.] might do considering Glazer has been the exclusive negotiator for several weeks."

Southern California developer Alan I. Casden still has a bid of about $400 million on the table and recently reached an $83-million settlement with former investors in a series of limited partnerships, possibly removing a legal impediment that concerned baseball.

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Staff writers Mike DiGiovanna, Sam Farmer, Sallie Hofmeister and Jason Reid contributed to this report.

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