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Milstein Withdraws Redskins Bid

April 8, 1999 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) _ Heated emotion and the cold reality of finances spelled doom for Howard Milstein. Now the search is on _ again _ for a new owner for the Washington Redskins.

Milstein, saying he wanted to get out before the process got ``protracted″ and ``contentious″ when it was already both, withdrew his group’s $800 million bid to buy the Redskins on Wednesday as it became apparent his group lacked the necessary support from NFL owners.

``We have withdrawn with great sadness. ... In the end we complied with all the league’s stated requirements and agreed to all of the league’s additional conditions,″ Milstein said in a statement released at a special owners meeting. ``But we recognize that a protracted, contentious dispute over ownership would cripple the Redskins.″

Milstein’s bid, which would have set a record for a U.S. sports franchise, was dogged from the start over questions about his finances and concerns he would be a litigious, maverick owner. Although worth an estimated $500 million, Milstein has his fortune tied up in real estate and did not have enough ready cash on hand to satisfy many owners.

Last week, Milstein got his father to supply $125 million for the deal, but many NFL owners viewed that as a loan rather than as liquid capital from the buyer. In a crucial vote, the league’s finance committee met for 4 1/2 hours Wednesday morning and did not recommend approval of the sale, splitting 3-3 with one abstention. Without a positive recommendation, the sale was virtually certain not to get the 24 of 31 votes needed from the full ownership.

Milstein, a New York real estate developer and part-owner of the NHL’s Islanders, then briefly addressed the full ownership. He made his case one final time before offering to pull out under an agreement brokered with input from commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Milstein left the room, and the owners voted 28-2-1 to accept the withdrawal.

Under the agreement, Milstein promised not to sue the league. In return, the league agreed to assume responsibility for a non-refundable $30 million deposit Milstein was required to make when his bid was selected by the trustees of the estate of the late Jack Kent Cooke on Jan. 10.

However, as owners left the hotel, it quickly became clear money wasn’t the only thing at issue. Tagliabue said some owners were concerned about Milstein’s confrontational stewardship of the Islanders, who are involved in multiple lawsuits in a fight for a new arena.

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``Emotion may have gotten invovled in it to some degree,″ said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who supported the bid. ``They did have past experience, and I think some of those issues were perceived negatively, fairly or unfairly.″

Finance committee chairman Bob Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and another supporter of the bid, said a number of owners found the concept of the $30 million deposit ``quite offensive″ because it almost boxed the league into a corner.

``The method the trustees used to sell the team sort of picked our owner for us,″ Kraft said. ``The owners want to feel that we’re picking who our new partner is.″

There will now be a new round of bidding conducted by the trustees. Milstein’s minority partner, Washington-area communications executive Daniel Snyder, intends to be first in line _ this time at the person leading the group.

``Dan Snyder intends to own the Washington Redskins,″ said a source involved with Snyder’s planning. ``There are no shortage of partners willing to be involved.″

Snyder, who would become the league’s youngest owner at age 34, has more than $150 million cash available to mount a bid and left a positive impression with many NFL owners.

``It’s logical,″ Jones said of a Snyder bid, ``because he was a very positive and important part of this bid.″

Neither Snyder nor Milstein was available for comment after the withdrawal was announced.

Also re-entering the race will be Redskins president John Kent Cooke, son of the late owner. Cooke vowed to keep the team in his family, but was outbid by an estimated $120 million in the first round.

``Today I have notified executors of my father’s estate that my offer is still on the table,″ Cooke said.

The new round of bidding could be completed in about two months. Meanwhile, Cooke will continue to run the team, retaining coach Norv Turner and general manager Charley Casserly.