Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Capitals and Bullets, who has not spoken publicly about the state of his franchises for eight months, said yesterday that both teams will remain at Capital Centre "until at least the end of the century.
"They will not move," Pollin said. "They cannot move."
Pollin acknowledged for the first time that he had rejected offers to buy the teams, but added that he would consider a proposition "backed by the right people and the right numbers."
But, he said, "if I sell or do not sell, the teams will be here."
Asked later to explain why the franchises cannot be moved, Pollin said, "The financing on this building is tied to the teams being here. So they can't move or the financing would be in default. Legally, there's no way the teams can move."
Informed sources say asking prices are $12 million for the Capitals, $15 million for the Bullets and $47 million for Capital Centre.
Pollin broke his longstanding silence at a press conference called to announce the hiring of Bryan Murray as coach of the Capitals. He took the opportunity, as he put it, "to steal a chapter from President Reagan's press conferences" and "get a few things off my chest."
The Capitals, who are faltering once again in their eighth season, "to date have been the major disappointment and the major failure of my business career," Pollin said.
The Bullets, he said later, are "very close" to being a playoff caliber team. "They could make it this year. If not this year, certainly next year."
Addressing reports that he is trying to sell both franchises, as well as Capital Centre, Pollin said, "We've had some people approach me, we've had some thoughts. We have not sold anything. To date, I own everything I've owned. I will continue to do so.
"If a proposition is brought to me that I think is backed by the right people and the right numbers, I will consider it. I will only consider it. We've had some propositions brought to me in the last four or five months. They've all been rejected."
Pollin dismissed speculation that his public silence has been related to physical or fiscal problems. Physically, he said, he never has been better. Pollin underwent triple bypass heart surgery Jan. 11, 1980.
"Financially, though it may suprise some people and may disappoint some other people, I am not going broke," he said. "I don't like losing money. Nobody likes losing money. But I know what I'm doing, and if money was the ultimate goal in life, I wouldn't be in this position. I'd be doing other things."
The reason for what he called his "unavailability to the press in the recent past," was that he had "really had nothing new to say. I figured if I had nothing new to say, I'd best not say anything. When you don't say anything, you can't have what you say misinterpreted, misconstrued or possibly even misquoted."
Asked later whether the code of silence had been broken permanently, he smiled and said, "Yeah, right."
One reason, he intimated, was that his silence had been "misinterpreted" by some fans and members of the media as being indicative of "a lack of my being involved, a lack of my interest, that I don't care anymore about the Bullets and the Capitals. Nothing, but nothing could be further from the truth.
"I've spent more of myself, my time, my energy, my guts, everything I've got, in the last six months on both of these teams," he said, ministering to them as he would "to a child in your family that is ill."
Indeed, the Capitals and the Bullets have appeared sickly of late, with each team showing only one victory through Wednesday morning. Pollin, who built the Capital Centre in 1973, was booed loudly at the Bullets' home opener Nov. 3 during ceremonies retiring Wes Unseld's number. "It didn't feel too good," he said.
"I understand their (the fans') frustration. I stand as the head of an organization that they feel has not progressed to where they would like it to be. I say to them, as I said before, we're not quitters. If you look at the Boston Celtics three or four years ago, how many games did they win? Very few. We're going to be back on top, we've been on top, we're going back on top with the Bullets. With the Capitals, we've been on the bottom and we're coming up.
"I'm asking the fans to have patience. I've asked it before. I continue to ask it. The fact is, none of us is throwing in the towel."
Pollin said he had no "specific, potential trades" in mind for the Bullets at the moment. "We have a team that has to play together to jell together. As I observe them, they are playing together better with each game. Before this season is over, we will be surprising a lot of people."
Some player agents who have negotiated contracts with the Bullets and other National Basketball Association teams suggest that the decline of the Bullets can be traced to Pollin's unwillingness or inability to compete in the marketplace. They say the game has passed him by. Pollin scoffed at the notion. "I think they're wrong," he said. "I think they're totally wrong. They don't know what they're talking about."