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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"LA Raiders?" S.I.s Mike Silver Reports Ex-49ers Execs Eddie DeBartolo and Carmen Policy Working To Make This Happen; Cowboys' Jerry Jones Backs It

Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Michael Silver was good enough -- not that not doing so would have been bad -- to provide me with this email copy of his article that's in the latest Sports Illustrated. For the hard copy read, get S.I. in a store.

As to the story itself, remember, that LA and the State of California have been forming a good plan to make this happen.

Meanwhile, is Raiders CEO Amy Trask going to NFL New York?

Here's Michael Silver:

By Michael Silver for Sports Illustrated

In the eight years since Eddie DeBartolo gave up his ownership interest in the San Francisco 49ers, Niners fans have fantasized about his possible return. The once lofty franchise has foundered under the reign of DeBartolo's brother-in-law, John York, whose condescension and cost-consciousness have alienated employees and inspired the website dumpyork.com. Meanwhile DeBartolo, the anti-York, evokes images of gregarious generosity -- and success. The three-day Super Bowl reunion gala he threw for hundreds of former employees in Las Vegas in March was a reminder of happier times.

Now how's this for a surprise twist: DeBartolo and former 49ers president Carmen Policy, together again, presiding over ... the revived Los Angeles Raiders?

It would rank as the Bay Area's biggest sporting nightmare -- not to mention a seismic shift in California's football landscape. But the scenario has been broached by DeBartolo and Policy, and the NFL's desire to break back into the nation's second-largest media market could help make it a reality. Most owners are reluctant to disrupt the league's 32-team symmetry or further split up TV revenue, making an expansion team in L.A. highly unlikely. Instead, an existing franchise will probably relocate under new ownership, with the Raiders, Saints, Chargers, Vikings, Bills or even the 49ers as the leading candidates.

DeBartolo and Policy, the duo whose bold leadership helped bring five Super Bowl titles to San Francisco, have heard the rumors that Raiders boss Al Davis is in declining health. That, plus attendance problems in Oakland, are why they have Silver and Black on the brain. "Carmen and I have discussed different things, and that's one of the teams that intrigues us," DeBartolo told SI. "L.A. is a costly situation, but it's wide-open, and I think the right group could make it work."

Given the nature of his exit in 1998, DeBartolo's potential NFL reemergence is something of a shock. A year after becoming embroiled in a Louisiana gaming scandal (then governor Edwin Edwards elicited a bribe in exchange for a casino license), DeBartolo pleaded guilty to not reporting an extortion attempt, a felony. He was given two years probation, and the NFL fined him $1 million. He then gave his half of the 49ers to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, in exchange for their late father's real estate holdings and moved to Tampa. He was in NFL exile, an untouchable because of his legal issues and their gambling overtones.

But time has revitalized DeBartolo's image, not to mention his portfolio. He has quietly built up his real estate empire to a reported net worth of $1.4 billion, and last September Forbes rated him the 235th-richest American. Several of the old-line NFL owners who were eager to see him go are now out of the league, and two prominent owners told SI they believe DeBartolo would be approved should he attempt to purchase a team. "His accomplishments in the NFL are significant," says the Cowboys' Jerry Jones. "A progressive owner is priceless."

DeBartolo, 59, says buying the Buccaneers would be his first choice. (He looked into purchasing them three years ago but was rebuffed by owner Malcolm Glazer.) But he and Policy -- they had a falling out shortly before DeBartolo left the 49ers but have repaired their relationship -- have contemplated other teams, including the Saints, and their interest in the Raiders is piqued by whispers that Davis, 76, is ill. He has been using a walker because of a leg ailment and did not show up at February's scouting combine or a recent minicamp. "For Al Davis to miss the combine, that's unusual," DeBartolo said.

The Raiders, for their part, say that everything is status quo. "Al Davis is as vital and vibrant as ever," says CEO Amy Trask. "The closest Eddie and Carmen will come to taking a look at the Raiders will be watching them on TV." Still, however Oakland plays out, it will take someone like DeBartolo to make things work in L.A. He's charismatic and emotionally invested, the type of personality needed to sell football in what has been a lukewarm market in the past. And given the resistance of Southern California politicians to financing stadium projects, it will take deep pockets. The cost of the team and a new venue or a refurbished Coliseum could be $1.5 billion.

DeBartolo believes that he and Policy could find the partners to pull it off. Jones, one of 15 owners who participated in a May 17 conference call that detailed L.A. stadium proposals, thinks DeBartolo and L.A. would be a perfect fit. "To me, L.A. is about the ownership," Jones said. "Money alone won't get it done. It's going to take some serious talent and passion, and boy, when it comes to passion, inevitably you think about someone like Eddie."

Unconfirmed Rumor: Raiders CEO Amy Trask Leaving Oakland Raiders for NFL Front Office Job - Profootballtalk.com

I'm ready this correctly, but if Profootballtalk.com's little throw away line is correct, Raiders CEO Amy Trask may be leaving the organization for, as that publication put it, "A nice NFL front-office job." Read this:


Nancy Gay of the San Francisco Chronicle, citing among other things a forthcoming story from Michael Silver of Sports Illustrated, reports that former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo is contemplating the possibility of seizing control of an NFL team and moving it to Los Angeles.

DeBartolo told Silver in March that the Raiders are a potential target, given an ongoing problem with attendance and owner Al Davis' "declining" health. (By the way, we've heard all sorts of rumors and speculation about the health condition of the guy who calls the shots in Oakland, but we've refrained from commenting on the subject out of respect for Davis. . . . And because we don't want to get sued.)

Teaming with former 49ers president Carmen Policy, DeBartolo also has eyeballed the Saints.

Raiders president Amy Trask told Gay in response to the SI story: "This is not a story about the Oakland Raiders being sold. This is not a story about the team relocating. This is a story about two gentlemen, Eddie DeBartolo and Carmen Policy, who clearly are drinking too much of Carmen's recently bottled wine.''


"The only look those two are going to get at this team is if they want to watch it on television,'' Trask added.

Double zing! (Hey, this girl could write copy for us if that whole "high-paying NFL front-office job" thing doesn't work out.)

Five years ago, there were rumors that DeBartolo was interested in joining with Outback Steakhouse owners Chris Sullivan and Bob Basham to buy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Malcolm Glazer. Though DeBartolo denied any interest in buying the team in a story published on January 24, 2001, he indicated otherwise in an item dated January 27.

"Malcolm Glazer and his family are very astute business people," DeBartolo said, "and all they had to say was that team wasn't for sale. And they did. But if something were to happen, and the Holy Ghost came down and Malcolm said, 'I'd like to sell the team,' would I be interested? Maybe."

But even if DeBartolo could find a team willing to let him buy it, the other members of the Billionaire Boys Club would have to approve the transaction.

We'd be willing to bet the riverboat casino that they won't.

DeBartolo pleaded guilty in 1998 to federal felony charges resulting from his failure to report an alleged extortion attempt by former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards, in which DeBartolo supposedly handed $400,000 in cash to Edwards in order to help DeBartolo win a riverboat casino license. In 1997, DeBartolo ceded control of the 49ers to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, after DeBartolo was advised of his impending indictment.

And when DeBartolo signed away his interest in the 49ers to York in March 2000, Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross of the Chronicle wrote that the move occurred after "NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue made it increasingly clear that -- despite DeBartolo's willingness to turn state's evidence against Edwards down in Louisiana -- the league would never let him back into football."

So there's no way, as a practical matter, that DeBartolo would ever get control of an NFL team. There are simply too many other folks out there with the money and the interest.

And without the rap sheet

Rumor: Eddie De Bartolo To Buy Raiders? - Mike Silver Drops An Interesting Bomb - SF Chronicle

This rumor's gone round and round today, and it's denied by the Raiders' CEO Amy Trask. That former San Francisco 49ers Owner Eddie Debartolo and team president Carmen Policy may be in line to purchase the Oakland Raiders and move them to LA. Well, here's the Chronicle's take first...

Rumors haunt Raiders

Nancy Gay - SF Chronicle
Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Not a week goes by without whispers of one of the ailing NFL franchises in California pulling up roots to head for the fertile ground of the Los Angeles market. So this latest load of fertilizer spreading around NFL circles is no different.

As NFL owners concluded a two-day meeting in Denver on Tuesday to discuss filling the vacant and valuable L.A. market, the Raiders again are rumored as a candidate to become one of the two teams the league would like to place in Southern California.

Ideally, the NFL wants a gleaming expansion team in place first, either downtown in an extensively refurbished Los Angeles Coliseum or in a new stadium in Anaheim.

Then, as the long-standing rumor goes, a distressed franchise -- the Saints, the Chargers, the 49ers or the Raiders, all of whom play in archaic stadiums -- would be trucked to Los Angeles.

Now, a new twist on the L.A. Story: This fantasy tale involves former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo and team president Carmen Policy taking over the NFL team in Oakland and reclaiming the title "Los Angeles Raiders'' somewhere down south.

Sports Illustrated is publishing a story today in which DeBartolo intimates to senior writer Michael Silver -- who was an invitee to a lavish three-day Super Bowl reunion Eddie D. threw in Las Vegas in March -- that the Raiders' lack of attendance and the "declining" health of Raiders owner Al Davis makes the franchise vulnerable for a takeover.

According to the SI article, DeBartolo, 59, already has taken a crack at buying the Tampa Bay Bucs from Malcolm Glazer and was rebuffed. Glazer is recovering from two recent strokes.

The reunited DeBartolo-Policy team, the article says, also has explored moving in on the Saints, who play in a hurricane-ravaged city that's struggling to provide residents with clean drinking water, much less luxury boxes.

Now the duo is homing in on Davis. The DeBartolo-Policy interest, Sports Illustrated writes, "is piqued by whispers that Davis, 76, is ill. He has been using a walker because of a leg ailment and did not show up at February's scouting combine or a recent minicamp."

"For Al Davis to miss the combine, that's unusual,'' DeBartolo said in the story.

Granted, DeBartolo has rebuilt his billion-dollar fortune in real-estate development. But this SI article makes him and Policy look like two vultures, swooping in on distressed NFL properties and so-called ailing owners.

Sports Illustrated, in all fairness, did contact Raiders CEO Amy Trask for comment. Unfortunately, Trask says, the magazine omitted much of what she had to say in response.

But not this.

"This is not a story about the Oakland Raiders being sold. This is not a story about the team relocating,'' Trask said Tuesday as she left Denver. "This is a story about two gentlemen, Eddie DeBartolo and Carmen Policy, who clearly are drinking too much of Carmen's recently bottled wine.''

Policy's 10-acre vineyard in Napa County and his longtime dream of being a vintner might be bearing fruit.

Trask -- who speaks publicly only with Davis' specific blessing -- says Eddie and Carmen's dream of owning the Raiders is pure fantasy.

"The only look those two are going to get at this team is if they want to watch it on television,'' said Trask, adding emphatically that the Raiders are not for sale.

Now or, apparently, upon Davis' death.

"Al Davis currently has, and will continue to have, total control of the Raiders,'' she said, emphasizing the words "total control."

"And that will continue in perpetuity.''

Meaning, Davis has a succession plan firmly in place.

Trask was not specific, but it's believed in team circles that Davis would bequeath his stake in the Raiders either to his wife, Carol, or his son, Mark, who is becoming a daily fixture at the team's Alameda facility.

And what of the rumors about Davis' health?

The man does appear frail. When he was first spotted using a walker at training camp last summer, it prompted speculation that Davis is battling a debilitating illness such as Parkinson's.

True, he did not attend the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, which set tongues wagging farther. He also did not attend the team's minicamp the week after the NFL Draft.

"The rumors about his health are false. Al is as healthy and as vital as ever,'' Trask said. "First of all, he had no reason to attend the combine when we had people in place there and he could watch the workouts on the NFL Network.

"Second, he has not gone to the May minicamp for the last five or six years, at least. So why is that an issue all of a sudden?''

And those rumors of the Raiders conducting secret visits to vacant land in Sacramento, scouting potential stadium sites? More hooey, Trask said.

The Raiders' secretive nature, the type of public-relations camouflage that could make Opus Dei look like it's open for membership, makes them a bull's-eye for gossip.

But if DeBartolo is openly speculating about an owner's health in a national magazine as a means of getting a foothold back into the NFL, then the league strongly should consider whether it wants that type of person in its fold.


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