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Redskins Sold to Milstein Group

January 11, 1999 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Since the franchise was born in 1933, there have been just three names at the top of the Washington Redskins. Now, some new faces are poised to take over.

With a bid of ``approximately $800 million″ _ a North American professional sports record _ brothers Howard and Edward Milstein and Daniel Snyder were announced today as the winners of an incredible bidding war for one of the nation’s blue-chip franchises.

The price breaks the $530 million Alfred Lerner spent last year for the expansion Cleveland Browns, a team for which Howard Milstein also put in a bid. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has a world record offer of $1 billion pending for the English soccer club Manchester United.

``The sale is subject to NFL approval and other conditions and is expected to close within the next 60 days,″ said a statement released by the trustees of the estate of the late Jack Kent Cooke.

The sale must be approval by three-quarters of NFL owners, who are expected to take up the matter during Super Bowl week at the end of the month. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, which has been handling the negotiations, has kept the league apprised during the process to help ensure that the winning candidate would met NFL requirements.

The deal stands to end 25 years of Cooke family control of one of the steadiest franchises in the NFL. Jack Kent Cooke became majority owner in 1974 and assumed day-to-day operations from Edward Bennett Williams in 1980. Williams had run the club since the death of team founder George Preston Marshall in 1969.

Final details of the sale were hammered out at a meeting Sunday between members of the Milstein-Snyder group and the trustees, according to sources involved in the sale. The final sticking point centered on what figure to release when the formal announcement was made today. The trustees statement listed the price as ``approximately $800 million.″

``It depends on how you count the money,″ one source told The Associated Press. ``The price is $800 million gross. The net is $750 million. The group will pay $800 million, but will essentially get $50 million back right away from money in a Redskins bank account and other assets.″

The Milstein brothers, who come from a successful banking family, own 45 percent of the NHL’s New York Islanders, but will all but certainly have to sell that interest to comply with the NFL’s cross-ownership rules. Howard Milstein, 47, is a noted New York real estate executive who bid $450 million for the Browns.

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Snyder, 34, is chief executive of Snyder Communications in Bethesda, Md., a marketing firm that employs 8,000 people in 80 locations in 12 countries. It is particularly big in pharmaceutical and long-distance telephone marketing.

That the Redskins were to be put up for sale at all was the big surprise when the will was read after Cooke died in April 1997 at the age of 84. Instead of leaving the team to his son, John Kent Cooke, the elder Cooke instructed that the seven trustees of his estate sell the team and stadium and that the proceeds be used to establish a charitable foundation for children.

John Kent Cooke was determined to keep the team in the family, but struggled to keep pace in the bidding process because he lacked the personal wealth of the billionaires and mega-millionaires who were competing against him.

``This is a sad day for me and my family and our Redskins family,″ Cooke said in a statement. ``I had the desire and the will _ even the ingenuity _ but not enough money to keep the Redskins in my family. ... In the end, my family could not the pay price of our success, and others could in these affluent times.″

Unlike the very public sale of the Browns, the Redskins were sold behind a veil of secrecy. Prospective bidders were required to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Milstein’s purchase leaves in doubt the futures of general manager Charley Casserly and coach Norv Turner. The Redskins haven’t made the playoffs since 1992, and are 32-47-1 in five years under Turner. Sources at Redskin Park said both would have been retained had Cooke kept the team, which finished 6-10 in 1998.

Even though the process was secretive, most of the major contenders became known, including Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos; Phoenix real estate developer Sam Grossman, who enlisted former coach Joe Gibbs as a minority partner; and Texas investor David Bonderman, whose group included shopping center developer Ted Lerner.