Debt-ridden owner Leonard Tose of the Philadephia Eagles will be seeking loans or refinancing totaling as much as $30 million at a special meeting of National Football League owners in New York today, sources said last night. It was uncertain whether such a loan would come directly from the NFL or whether the league would guarantee it through one or more banks.
One source said league owners, if they decide by a three-quarters vote to bail Tose out of his financial dilemma, most likely would guarantee a loan, because there was no advantage to the owners to lend the money themselves. Tose is said to need to refinance a $30 million loan and line of credit with Crocker National Bank in Los Angeles.
Tose, who announced Saturday night he had reached a deal with the City of Philadephia that would keep the franchise from moving to Phoenix, apparently will come to the meeting with several financing plans, a source said.
Two sources yesterday, including James Monaghan, the real estate developer who was going to buy a minority interest in the Eagles and move them to Phoenix, said Tose's debts were more in the $30 million range, nor $40 million, as generally has been reported in the past week. Much of that debt is said to be a result of casino-gambling losses.
In New York, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle said he had given Tose and Philadephia Mayor W. Wilson Goode assurances that he would support Tose's efforts to get h is club on solid financing footing. But he said that Susan Fletcher, Tose's daughter and the team's vice president, had gone "very, very too far if she was quoted correctly" when she said in yesterday's editions of the Phildelphia Inquirier that Rozelle had ma de an oral commitment to her father for a loan.
Fletcher and the other Eagles officials met with NFL officials yesterday. But neither Tose nor Rozelle was present. Such issues as management control, principle and interest rates will be discussed at today's meeting.
It was uncertain last night how much support Rozelle would get from the other 27 owners, 20 of whom must join Tose in approving any plan. Rankin Smith of Atlanta and Dan Rooney of Pittsburgh are said to be opposed, and even Cleveland's Art Modell, a staunch Rozelle ally said, "I don't know. Obviously, it's not etched in concrete. If it was, why have a meeting . . . Philly is important to the league, but at what price?"
Monaghan, in a telephone interview from Orlando, Fla., said that when he left on a trip to Japan 2 1/2 weeks ago, he thought he had "a completely signed deal."
Offices for the team had been rented in Phoenix, telephones had been ordered, a public relations firm had been hired and both a press conference and bank closing had been scheduled for yesterday, Monaghan said.
Monaghan said the deal he signed a month ago when Tose had escape clauses on both sides in case of litigation to stop the move. The deal included his purchase of 25 percent of the Eagles for $10 million, plus arranging for Tose, through an Arizona bank, refinancing on the Crocker Bank loan.
But Monaghan said Tose would have kept control of the franchise, as he insisted in stalemated negotiations with a consortium of Philadephia's major lending institutions. Monaghan said the deal included an option to purchase another 24 percent of the team, and gave each man the right of first refusal to buy out the other if either died and his heirs did not want to keep the team.
But the story of the impending sale broke in Phoenix last Tuesday, and by the weekend, Tose faced lengthy, expensive litigation from both the NFL and the City of Philadelphia and possible intervention from Congress.
As late as Friday night, according to Monaghan, Fletcher called Keith Turley, chairman of the board of Arizona Public Service Co. and a man who worked closely on the deal with Monaghan, and said, "Don't worry. We're ready to have our press conference Monday."
But late Saturday, Tose said he would stay in Philadelphia. The city had agreed to stadium enhancements and other financial concessions worth as much as $4 million annually. And Rozelle had agreed to support Tose at today's meeting.
Monaghan said yesterday he no longer was angry at Tose.
"After seeing the position Tose was placed in, I can sympathize with him," Monaghan said. "The whole thing was created by a leak by somebody that had knowledge of the transaction, and that started off a chain reaction. He was betwen a rock and a hard place. He's 73 (actually 69), and he's thinking, at his age, "I'm not going to go through lawsuits with the NFL."
"I'd do the same thing. I was angry at the person who leaked it in the first place. If they had kept that story out of the papers, we would have been there. Then, it would have been like Oakland and Baltimore. The horse would have been out of the gate, and the lawsuits and the injunctions wouldn't have mattered."
Monaghan said that he and Tose were brought together last spring in Edgar Kasier's New York penthouse. Kaiser had sold the Denver Broncos to Patrick D. Bowlen, a friend of Monaghan's from their hometown of Edmonton, Alberta. Monaghan said that he had told Kaiser he was interested in bying an NFL team, and Kaiser acted as the intermediary in getting Tose and Monaghan together.
Negotiations continued in secret, with a number of people in Phoenix actively working on the project, with cooperation from politicians on both sides of the aisle, Monaghan said. (According to a suit filed by the NFL, the league never was advised of the negotiations and owners would not have approved a shift of the franchise.)
"We signed a sales agreement and a partnership agreement about a month ago," Monaghan said. "That's why it was so disappointing. I went to Japan 2 1/2 weeks ago knowing I had a completed deal. . . . It would have been funded today (Monday)."
Because of the escape clauses on each side, Monaghan said he has no legal case to sue Tose for breach of contract, as a potential purchaser did two years ago. That case cost Tose a $1.75 million settlement. "I'm sure Tose learned from his first experience selling the club that he wasn't going to get trapped twice," Monaghan said. "I have no legal comeback on him at all."
Yesterday, Monaghan explained why he would have been getting 25 percent of the team for just $10 million, when NFL franchises have sold for $60 million and John Mecom is asking $75 million for the New Orlean Saints: "I was personally guaranteeing the loans which made up in lieu of dollars in the first 25 percent."
He also said that if the NFL doesn't pass a new bylaw to restrict franchise movement to replace the one struck down by the courts in the Los Angeles Raiders antitrust case, league owners will at least put the framework in place today for such a rule. Rozelle said Sunday another special meeting with seven days' notice was needed to take up that subject.
"After tomorrow, it will be a fact of life they (owners) will be stuck wherever they're at, except for circumstances beyond their control," Monaghan said. "As far as going to New Orleans or St. Louis and buying and moving the franchise to Phoenix, you won't be able to do it. It's a thing of the past. They're not going to go through this situation again. I'm sure they're going to look to curb it."
In a related development yesterday, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) threatening a review of the NFL's limited antitrust exemption permitting pooling of television revenues, wrote Rozelle asking the NFL to bear the cost of the concessions made by the city of Philadelphia to keep the Eagles. "Those concessions could not have been extracted under . . . threat . . . if the NFL had fulfilled its duty to establish reasonable standards for such franchise moves," Specter said.