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Earl Foreman, who shared ownership of Baltimore Bullets, dies at 92

Earl Foreman, left, owner of the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association, and Abe Pollin, owner o f the Baltimore Bullets of the National Basketball Association, in 1972. (Bob Daugherty/AP)

Earl M. Foreman, a Washington lawyer and professional sports investor who was a part-owner of the basketball team that became the Washington Wizards and of the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League, died Jan. 23 in Chevy Chase, Md. He was 92.

He had heart disease and died in an ambulance en route to a hospital from his home in Chevy Chase, said a son, Stuart Foreman.

Mr. Foreman had a hand in drafting such basketball standouts as Julius “Doctor J” Erving and Wes Unseld; served as commissioner of the Major Indoor Soccer League in the 1980s; and for a period in the 1960s owned nearly half of the Philadelphia Eagles. He also was part-owner of the Spectrum indoor sports arena in Philadelphia and had a small interest in the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team.

In 1964, Mr. Foreman bought a minority share in the National Basketball Association's Baltimore Bullets franchise with Abe Pollin and Arnold Heft for a then-record price of $1.1 million. Four years later, Mr. Foreman negotiated the contract of the University of Louisville all-American Unseld, who went on to lead the team — then the Washington Bullets — to the 1978 NBA championship. (Mr. Foreman no longer had an ownership share in the team. The Bullets became the Wizards in 1997.)

In 1969, Mr. Foreman purchased the Oakland Oaks of the American Basketball Association and brought the team to Washington. After one season as the Washington Caps, the franchise moved to Norfolk as the Virginia Squires.

Erving, the team’s star player, led the ABA in scoring for two years. But following litigation over his contract, he went to the New York Nets, where he continued his Hall of Fame career. The Squires received more than $1 million in compensation.

“From the beginning Mr. Foreman made it impossible to lose his own money in the venture,” Washington Post sports columnist Mark Asher wrote in 1973. “None of it is invested in the team he brought from Oakland to Washington, then moved to Virginia a season later.”

“Foreman,” Asher continued, “is still the shrewdest owner in professional basketball. He retains that uncanny business ability to seize a negative situation and make it profitable — for himself first and usually for his partners in the American Basketball Association.”

As an investor, adviser and lawyer, Mr. Foreman helped bring about the 1970 merger of the NFL and the rival American Football League and, a few years later, the merger of the NBA and American Basketball Association.

Earl Marin Foreman, the son of a furniture salesman, was born in Baltimore on March 28, 1924. He served as an Army medic in Europe during World War II, then graduated from the University of Maryland and its law school.

Mr. Foreman worked as a shoe salesman to supplement money from the G.I. bill for his education.

In 1949, he married Phyllis Snider, whose brother Ed Snider was a co-founder of the Flyers hockey team.

Besides his wife, survivors include three sons, Ronald Foreman of Chevy Chase, Stuart Foreman of Haverford, Pa., and Scott Foreman of Silver Spring, Md.; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

In the 1950s, Mr. Foreman relocated to Washington from Baltimore and, after a stint as an FBI lawyer, practiced with the firm of Foreman, Cutler and Diamond. His specialties included real estate and mortgage law.

Among his early sports acquisitions was the Washington Whips outdoor soccer team, which he bought in 1967. Along with his shares in the Bullets and the Eagles, Mr. Foreman was at least a part owner of three professional sports team simultaneously.

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