While baseball executives are looking for a team to bring to Washington, four men are trying to buy a franchise for the Nation's Capital.
Three have the money individually or in partnership to buy a club if the conditions are right. The fourth is trying to raise funds by selling stock to the public.
Sources in baseball say there is a fifth interested party with the necessary financing, but refuse to reveal who he is.
Since no one knows for sure which, if any, club might end up in Washington's RFK Stadium and under what terms, the four prospective buyers are reluctant to talk specifically about prices and are cautious about making statements that could backfire or be construed as publicity-seeking.
The four are:
Theodore N. Lerner of Chevy Chase, the developer of sophisticated and massive shoppig complexes in the area.
He is responsible for Tysons Corner, Wheaton Plaza, Landover Mall and the just-opened White Flint centers, plus a number of buildings in the area.
Last year, Lerner and his brother, Lawrence E. Lerner, offered $10 million in cash for the San Francisco Giants, whom they wanted to transfer here. But fresh capital turned up in the West and the Giants stayed there. The Lerners them pursued an NL expansion club but the league eventually voted against expansion.
Although he has a reputation for being a tough businessman in his real-estate ventures, Lerner has said he is not seeking a baseball club for a profit-making investment and would be happy if he broke even. Washington deserves a club, he said.
Edward N. Cole, retired president of General Motors Corp. Most of his efforts in the past few years have been concentrated on getting an established club such as the Baltimore Orioles.
When Oriole board chairman Jerold C. Hoffberger announced two years ago his team was for sale, Cole offered $12.6 million in cash. But Hoffberger, who had said he would not sell to anyone who would move the club, subsequently took the Orioles off the auction block.
Cole, whose interest has been encouraged by the Galbreaths of the Pittsburgh Pirates, comes to Washington frequently on business trips and has many Congressional and Mid eastern associates.
A lifelong inventor, Cole is responsible for the automotive airbag safety device, the development of a new giant jet airplane specifically designed to carry freight and numerous inventions and improvements on car parts.
George B. Heidemann of Wyncote, Pa., who has tried, like Cole, to buy baseball clubs for Washington. He bid on the Senators that Bob Short finally bought.
Heidemann, who bankrolls the semipro quakers of the Pen-Del baseball league, says he believes pro baseball belongs in the Nation's Capital, but feels one team midway between here and Baltimore probably would be the ideal.
Heidemann said it would be premature to name his partners, but has had six or seven conversations with Charles O. Finley, owner of the Oakland A's, about buying that club and moving it here as a NL team. The conversations have been inconclusive so far, Heidemann said.
E. Joseph Wheeler, who heads an oceanographic research and engineering firm here. So far, his plan to raise $23 million by selling the public stock in Washington Pro Baseball, Inc., has not fared well.
He has sole 1,671 shares at $25 each, year to sell 920,000 shares. Even if he were successful, he would have other obstacles since baseball frowns on so many people owning a club.