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LERNER THE FAVORITE GOING INTO NFL'S "DOG-AND-PONY SHOW"
Published August 19, 1998
Today is the day that "seven aspiring owners of the Browns pitch themselves in front of all 30 NFL team owners" in Atlanta, according to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Grossi: "No prize is awarded at the end of the day, but a good presentation could sway some votes when the owner is selected in another month." Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver: "I think it's kind of a dog-and-pony show. ... We all will form opinions and impressions. And when it comes right down to it, it seems to me what they say and what they present will become fairly significant. Because in the final analysis, there won't be a great disparity in the bids." Grossi writes that while the first bids are "signed and sealed," the second bids -- due after each applicant visits the NFL "data room" in New York -- will "separate the field." If the bids "are close," an NFL owner speculated within $50M of each other, "factors such as Cleveland connections, minority participation and likability could play a larger role." Through a draw from a hat, Cleveland developer Bart Wolstein will go first (PLAIN DEALER, 8/19). Wolstein: "From what I've been reading, the price is going to be the most important thing" (BEACON JOURNAL, 8/19). WHO ARE THE ODDS-ON FAVORITES? Grossi reports that while Al Lerner "looks like the front runner ... nothing is always what it seems in the NFL" (PLAIN DEALER, 8/19). USA TODAY's Gordon Forbes lays his odds, putting Lerner at 3-1; Wolstein at 7-2; Charles/Larry Dolan at 9-2; Howard Milstein at 6-1; Richard Jacobs at 10-1; Thomas Murdough at 15-1; and Jeremy Jacobs at 25-1 (USA TODAY, 8/19). In an AKRON BEACON JOURNAL survey, Murdough was the fans' pick to become the Browns' owner, receiving 27% of the vote. The Dolans got 22%; Lerner 16%; Wolstein 14%; Milstein 12% and Richard Jacobs 4.5%. Lerner "drew the strongest response, both pro and con" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/19). In St. Pete, Hubert Mizell calls Lerner the "best bet" (ST. PETE TIMES, 8/19). STADIUM LOAN: With a 5-2 vote, OH's Controlling Board approved a $21.8M loan to help finish the Browns' stadium. The loan -- "in effect, a cash advance on a state construction budget" -- will be repaid with stadium aid appropriated in the November budget (PLAIN DEALER, 8/19).