NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle indicated yesterday that team owners meeting in special session Tuesday in New York will consider making a loan to Leonard Tose, the debt-ridden owner of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Late Saturday night, Tose announced he had agreed to a deal with the city of Philadelphia that would bring the Eagles $2 million to $4 million more in annual revenues and was no longer considering a move of the franchise to Phoenix.
Rozelle, in a telephone interview from his home, also said that he would get complete details of what Tose is seeking at a meeting with Eagles officials in New York today. "We'll talk about it and see what's involved, what he wants in terms of assistance," Rozelle said.
There were indications in Philadelphia Saturday night that Tose, who is reportedly $40 million in debt, would be seeking about $12 million from the league. In their joint press conference Saturday night, Tose and Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode said they had the support of Rozelle in resolving Tose's financing, and Tose said that a loan from the league was a possibility.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Susan Fletcher, Tose's daughter and the team's vice president, said yesterday that Rozelle had given her father an oral commitment Saturday that the league would develop a package to "refinance the club on an ongoing basis." Fletcher said the league's commitment would not be a one-year solution.
Calling the possible loan "a sensitive situation," Rozelle yesterday declined to discuss specifics or generalities about it.
"It's tough for me to talk about what they say is cooperation when I haven't talked to the 27 guys who would have to pay for it. It hasn't been discussed with them," Rozelle said. "They (Tose and Goode) can say what they want to say. I'll present it to the 27 clubs on Tuesday . . . I'm not fully informed as to what they want from the league."
Rozelle also said that consideration of a new bylaw on franchise shifts, to replace the one struck down by the courts in the Los Angeles Raiders antitrust suit, could not be taken up Tuesday, as suggested by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). Rozelle said that seven days' notice must be given to take up that subject, and another special meeting could be called for that purpose.
Tose had an opportunity to receive $42 million in loans and refinancing from Philadelphia's major lending institutions, but a stalemate developed because he did not want to give up control of the team. Instead, Tose received stadium inducements and financial concessions that will result in additional cash flow of $2 million to $4 million annually, thereby putting him in better position to get refinancing from other sources.
Goode outlined a plan by which the city committed itself to build at least 50 luxury skyboxes, construct additional boxes at other levels of Veterans Stadium and add escalators to the upper deck. In addition, the Eagles' annual rent of approximately $800,000 will be deferred for 10 years, with the team paying it in one lump sum at 9 percent interest, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The city also agreed to build the Eagles a new practice facility at an unspecified site, give the team a larger share of food and beverage concessions and give them parking revenues equal to the baseball Phillies (until now, the Eagles did not receive any parking fees). The Eagles agreed to extend their lease at Veterans Stadium for 10 years, until 2011. A Philadelphia city economist justified the action, saying that the team generated $15 million business in the city annually.
The announcement Saturday night ended five days of intense, frenzied negotiations to keep the team in the city where the franchise was founded 51 years ago, after the Eagles, reacting to a newspaper report from Phoenix, confirmed Tose was considering to move the franchise there. It came amid mounting pressures on Tose, from the likelihood of lengthy, expensive litigation with the NFL and the City of Philadelphia and from Congress.
In a television interview in Orlando, Fla., real estate investor James Monaghan, who was going to buy 25 percent of the team from Tose and move it to Phoenix, was not a happy man. "I'm furious," he said. "I'm disappointed. I'm mad as hell. He used somebody before, and he used me this time. I'm completely appalled. I'm totally devastated. Nine months of hard work have gone down the drain."
Monaghan said that he had no contact Thursday or Friday with Tose or Susan Fletcher. He said Fletcher informed him of her father's decision in a telephone call late Saturday night.
"It would appear they made Mr. Tose an offer he couldn't refuse," Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) said in a statement. "From my own vantage point, I simply will continue pursuit of the twin goals I have had for several years. First, I will reintroduce and seek passage of my antitrust bill that would permit the NFL to prevent moves of their teams and thereby stabilize the current chaos regarding football team moves. This would make it much easier to reach the second goal of acquiring an expansion team in Phoenix."
Mike Gallagher, a Phoenix lawyer and chairman of the Mayor's Professional Sports Advisory Committee, said in a telephone interview he thought the premature disclosure of the impending move thwarted the franchise shift. "The premature publicity was real unfortunate," Gallagher said. "In any event, it would be a mad scramble. If the story hadn't broken, the move would have been accomplished."