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SBD/19/Leagues Governing Bodies
NFL GETS BIG LEGAL WIN OVER PATS FORMER OWNER
Published September 19, 1994
The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the $51M antitrust judgment won by former Patriots owner William Sullivan against the NFL in '91 and ordered a new trial. The decision, written by Chief Justice Juan Torruella, found that U.S. District Court Judge Edward Harrington "erred by not instructing the jury to consider several key aspects of the case." Sullivan, on having to go back to trial: "I can't wait to get back into the arena again. Of course I'll do it. I've been in this thing for 30 years and I've had my block knocked off by people of little consequence." Sullivan had brought suit against 21 of the NFL's 27 teams for its policy prohibiting public ownership. Sullivan said the policy had stopped him in '87 from selling 49% of the Patriots in a public offering. He ended up selling the team to Victor Kiam for about $83.7M. Sullivan sued the NFL in '91 for $116M in damages, charging that the policy against public ownership forced him to sell the team at a lower price (May & Grunwald, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/17). The NFL said the court's ruling undid a "travesty" against the league (Joseph Rebello, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/19). Will McDonough calls Sullivan's suit "contrived," and adds, "Justice has been served" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/17).