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DETAILS BEGIN TO EMERGE ON INVESTIGATION OF DEBARTOLO
Published December 4, 1997
A Federal grand-jury investigation of 49ers co-Owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. is "focusing on a $400,000 cash payment he made to former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards less than three weeks before his company obtained a casino license in Louisiana, according to people with knowledge of the probe" and cited by Laurie Cohen of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The investigation began in fall '96 when the FBI wiretapped Edwards' home and law office (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/4). A source told the S.F. CHRONICLE that Federal agents "were listening" when DeBartolo "offered to pay" as much as $400,000 for the license and that he "got caught in an elaborate federal sting" aimed at Edwards. The source added: "There's no question who the government was after. Then along comes Eddie" (Fagan, Pimentel & Dietz, S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/4). In Baton Rouge, former Gov. Edwards said that the $383,500 that the FBI seized was paid to him by DeBartolo to "watch out for his interests." Edwards: "DeBartolo never asked me or intimated or suggested that I do anything improper, out of line, or unethical. And no one can say otherwise." He added that DeBartolo paid him the money this year, "well after" he left office (Peter Shinkle, Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 12/4). If convicted, DeBartolo "could be banned for life" from the NFL (S.F. EXAMINER, 12/3). SPEAKS TO THE TEAM: 49ers President Carmen Policy said that DeBartolo had spoken to the team in a "closed meeting." He said a "somewhat emotional but controlled" DeBartolo told players that he was "committed to the team's future and would be back" (S.F. EXAMINER, 12/3). Policy added that DeBartolo's "pending indictment" would not affect the team and that "there would be no impediment" to the team's new stadium project. Policy: "The DeBartolo Corp. is doing quite well. They will be able to withstand whatever ramifications." He "rejected" suggestions that DeBartolo and his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, who is a 50% partner in the team, "would be forced to sell because of the legal problems" (Fagan, Pimentel & Dietz, S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/4). In San Jose, Mark Purdy calls DeBartolo's resignation "overrated," and quotes one NFL team exec as saying, "Around the league, I think most people will believe that Ed DeBartolo is still going to play some part in major 49er decisions" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 12/4). In S.F., Ray Ratto wrote under the header, "Business As Usual? If So, It May Get Rocky." Ratto: "One wonders if York's ambitions are contained by her familial ties. One wonders if DeBartolo really did resign in more than just name. One wonders whether the NFL would bother to do anything to him even if he is convicted. ... I think we're going to have to let this play out a while" (S.F. EXAMINER, 12/3). NOTES: A SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS editorial states: "Whatever the legal outcome of this matter, [DeBartolo's] image in the Bay area will never be quite the same" (MERCURY NEWS, 12/4)....Also in San Jose, Herhold & Carey examine the NFL's guidelines on gambling. DeBartolo's ownership of the 49ers as "he embarked on a bold, two-year venture into the gaming industry was made possible by the [NFL's] lenient restrictions on gambling, as far as owners are concerned." NFL execs said yesterday that while they were "concerned" over his gaming initiatives, they had taken "no firm stand against his activities" (MERCURY NEWS, 12/4).