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Edward DeBartolo Jr

December 2, 1997 GMT

Edward DeBartolo Jr. Steps Down as Owner of San Francisco 49ers After Newspapers Reported He Would Be Indicted for Gambling FraudBy ROB GLOSTER

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Edward DeBartolo Jr., whose San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowls under his leadership, stepped down as owner Tuesday after two Louisiana newspapers reported he would be indicted for gambling fraud.

DeBartolo said that pending the outcome of the investigation, his sister, Marie Denise DeBartolo York, will take over as chairman of the 49ers and Carmen Policy will continue as president and chief executive officer.

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The newspapers reported that DeBartolo and former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards are among at least six people notified they soon will be indicted by a federal grand jury.

``These charges simply are not true,″ DeBartolo said in a statement. ``I look forward to the time when I can address these issues and tell my side of the story.″

Policy will continue to run the 49ers’ day-to-day operations and replace DeBartolo as the team’s representative to the NFL for league business.

DeBartolo said he also was stepping aside from any role in the project to build a new stadium for the 49ers in San Francisco.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the NFL had been aware of the grand jury investigation prior to Tuesday’s announcement, and that it would be ``inappropriate to comment on the legal proceedings involving Mr. DeBartolo while those matters remain subject to the judicial process.″

``Mr. DeBartolo and officials of the San Francisco 49ers also had made my office aware of the steps announced today with respect to the restructuring of the club’s management and Mr. DeBartolo’s decision to remove himself from any role in NFL and club operations pending the resolution of the legal proceedings.″

``The steps announced today will have no effect on the performance of the football team, the development of the new stadium or the quality operations that have characterized the 49ers for two decades,″ Tagliabue said.

He said he told the 49ers that he approved of the moves by the DeBartolo family and the team, and that he had ``complete confidence″ in Policy and the 49ers management.

York said it was ``a very difficult time″ for her brother.

``In this country, everyone is entitled to a presumption of innocence and to due process under the law. I hope everything will work out for him,″ she said.

Policy said there would be ``no disruption″ in the day-to-day operations of the team.

``Eddie DeBartolo and his family has the full support of myself, the team and the entire 49er organization,″ Policy said.

DeBartolo was ordered to appear before the federal grand jury in New Orleans in June as part of the investigation into gambling.

The Times of Shreveport and The News-Star of Monroe reported Tuesday that, in addition to DeBartolo and Edwards, the others who were sent ``target letters″ included Edwards’ son, Stephen Edwards.

The letters are used to notify recipients of imminent indictment and invite them to testify before the grand jury if they wish to offer evidence that could absolve them.

The inclusion of DeBartolo indicates the indictment includes events surrounding the awarding of a riverboat gambling license in March to a partnership that included DeBartolo and Hollywood Casino Corp.

DeBartolo withdrew from the project after the state gambling board demanded he hand over all documents he gave to the grand jury. The documents included an ``unexecuted agreement″ between DeBartolo and Stephen Edwards, according to a copy of a grand jury subpoena obtained by the newspapers.

The state gambling board canceled the project after DeBartolo withdrew.

Hollywood was never aware of any arrangement between DeBartolo and Stephen Edwards, said company spokesman Eric Terry. But Hollywood hired a relative and an associate of Stephen Edwards, both of whom had offices in the same suite as Edwin and Stephen Edwards.

DeBartolo’s businesses include shopping malls, thoroughbred racetracks, including Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La., and other commercial property.

DeBartolo, a native of Youngstown who has helped build his family’s real estate development firm, purchased the 49ers in 1977. His generous treatment of players often has been credited with helping San Francisco attract and retain some of the league’s top players.

The 49ers lured quarterback Steve Young from the USFL, and have signed many other big-name free agents _ such as sack specialist Kevin Greene this season _ in part because of the team’s reputation for treating players well.

The 49ers, who won Super Bowls in 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989 and 1994, are tied for the best record in football again this season.

But DeBartolo also has been a controversial figure. He and a companion were charged with battery in Green Bay earlier this year after being accused of punching a Packers fan and head-butting another in a scuffle outside Lambeau Field after the Packers beat the 49ers in a playoff game on Jan. 4.

While Edwin Edwards would not comment about receiving his target letter, he acknowledged he soon expects to be indicted.

Known for his gambling junkets to Las Vegas, Edwards served four terms as governor, his last ending in January 1996. During his final term in office, Edwards said he had been offered a high-paying job with the 49ers but turned it down because he did not want to leave Louisiana.