National Football League owners decided today to take up to 45 days to study Leonard Tose's financial problems before deciding whether to assist the Philadelphia Eagles' owner in either a loan or refinancing of his debts.
But Tose and NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle were confident after the five-hour meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria that the league will find a way to assist Tose, who is reported to be at least $30 million in debt. Tose said a $12 million note to Crocker National Bank in Los Angeles is not due until the end of March.
"I'm completely happy with what the league has done today," Tose said at a joint press conference with Rozelle. "I'm confident there will be a successful solution where I will have complete control (of the franchise)."
Neither Tose nor Rozelle would say how much money Tose is seeking from the league. But Tose said if another source was willing to come up with $45 million, he would listen.
In a related development, Rozelle said that under his power as commissioner, he was implementing written "procedures and policies" concerning future franchise shifts. Such procedures would prevent teams from moving without notifying the league, as the Raiders and Colts had done previously, and as Tose had been set to do in his plan to sell a minority interest in the Eagles and move them to Phoenix.
Rozelle, while declining to give specifics until the procedures were in writing and distributed to club owners, said these are not the rules requiring a simple majority vote for transfer that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and others had been urging the league to adopt.
But they put into writing procedures for giving notice of a franchise shift and for action on it, apparently within the legal limits set by a federal appeals court in the Los Angeles Raiders antitrust suit. Rozelle said the NFL had such a procedure in the Raiders case, but a federal judge in Los Angeles issued an injunction preventing the league from taking action.
Rozelle said that the NFL did not act in a similar manner when the Baltimore Colts vanned to Indianapolis one night last March because "on advice of counsel, we didn't want to do anything against the ($49 million) judgment thrown at us in Los Angeles."
The owners agreed to the plan to study Tose's financing "without dissent," Rozelle said. He said he had not decided on the committee members.
The committee will not have power to make a deal for Tose, but only bring recommendations back before another meeting of league owners for approval.
"There was considerable support (for Tose)," Rozelle said. "They want to make a good-faith effort to resolve this, to resolve the problem for both of us."
Asked if he were upset the owners were taking up to 45 days to act, Tose said, "As matter of fact, this is pretty fast for the NFL."
There apparently was no hard questioning of Tose at the meeting. Asked specifically if owners questioned Tose about his reported casino gambling, Rozelle said, "No."
Rozelle said the U.S. Football League's $1.2 billion antitrust suit against the NFL was "one of the factors, but not a primary factor" why the other 27 owners are willing to help Tose.
Tose also pledged to his fellow owners that he is committed to keeping the team in Philadelphia, Rozelle said. By moving the franchise to Phoenix, the NFL would have been entering one of the USFL's franchise locations. "There is a different climate because of the USFL suit," one owner said walking out of the meeting.
Today's emergency meeting was called by Rozelle last week when Tose, reacting to published reports in Phoenix, confirmed through a spokesman that he was considering a move.
James Monaghan, a Phoenix businessman, was going to buy 25 percent of the team for $10 million and personally guarantee, through an Arizona bank, the refinancing for Tose's $12 million loan and $18 million line of credit with Crocker Bank. But Tose backed out of what Monaghan has called "a completely signed deal" when the NFL filed suit in Philadelphia federal court to stop the impending move, the city threatened to sue and there was the possibility of congressional intervention.
Tose turned down a $42 million package of loans and refinancing from a consortium of Philadelphia's major lending institutions when they demanded he yield control of tesm management as a condition for the deal.
Tose then made a deal with the city for stadium enhancements and other financial concessions worth as much as $4 million annually. Also, Rozelle agreed to support Tose's effort for the league to bail him out.
Rozelle said that there was no vote, only discussions, on financing plans introduced by Tose today. "Most club owners didn't hear about the (specifics of the) proposal until today. The committee will discuss the various aspects of the financing."