Jack Kent Cooke, majority stockholder in the Washington Redskin football franchise, was willing to sell his interest in the team as recently as one month ago, sources have told The Washington Post.
The question arose because the National Football League is eager to enforce a policy requiring that its club owners divest themselves of ownership in other professional team sports. The owners are being canvassed about the feasibility of setting up a deadline.
Cooke also owns the Los Angeles basketball Lakers and the hockey Kings, plus the Forum where both teams play in Inglewood, Calif.
Cooke owns 300 of the 350 shares of outstanding stock in Pro Football Inc., parent company of the Redskins. Team president Edward Bennett Williams owns the remaining 50 shares.
Since 1972 Cooke and Williams have purchased and retired the 650 shares from the estates of the late George Preston Marshall and Milton King for approximately $10 million. The cost of interest on loans by the company to buy the stock runs about $500,000 a year.
Cooke was interested in selling the Redskins in 1976 - for $22.5 million.
His initial investment in the team about 15 years ago was $350,000; Williams approximately $50,000.
A prospective purchaser could find the Redskin franchise priced at upwards of $32 million, in view of the upcoming $20 million revenue from television for every club over the next four years.
There is a complication. Cooke will not be permitted to sell his Redskin stock - or any other assets - until there is a divorce settlement with his wife.
Sources said yesterday that Cooke was willing to sell his interest in the Redskins before the divorce action, which was instituted in July 1976.
One prospective buyer said yesterday that, at the time, Cooke volunteered to arrange financing for the purchaser through a New York City bank.
Another source said that a spokesman for Cooke told club owners at recent NFL meetings in Palm Springs, Calif., and New York that Cooke's commitment to sell his Redskin stock still stood.
Still another source was asked why Cooke would sell the Redskins, rather than the Lakers and Kings, with the value of the NFL franchise soaring because of television contracts with the three networks that will bring more than $5 million a season to each club.
The source said Cooke has been taking an active part in the operation of the Lakers and Kings franchise, but rarely has been seen at NFL meetings.
The source was asked whether, even if Cooke reduced his evaluation of the franchise to $20 million, would it not now be worth $40 million in view of the upcoming $20 million from television over the next four seasons.
"No," the source said. "NFL clubs already were receiving more than $2 million a year from television, and some clubs were losing money.
"The increase from television will amount to $3 million a year, or $12 million over four years. Add that to a $20 million price on the franchise and you get $32 million, but that is a lot of money to ask.
"People weren't exactly jumping at the chance to buy the two most recent expansions franchise - at Tampa Bay and Seattle - at $16 million each.
"There were several groups in each city interested until it came time to meet the payment schedule we set up.
"The established San Francisco franchise did bring more than $16 million (a year ago). I read where some people from the Middle East offered $50 million for the Los Angeles Rams recently, but I don't know how reliable that offer was.
"Supply and demand may be a factor. The last established franchise sold before the 49ers was the one in Philadelphia (1969, for about $16 million). I don't know of any other franchise for sale."
Arthur Crowley, attorney for Cooke's wife in the divorce action, said yesterday that there is no settlement near over finances and "we are going to let the court decide."