SBJ/November 16 - 22, 1998/No Topic Name

John Kent Cooke likely to face challengers for Redskins

Bids to buy the Washington Redskins are due by the end of November, and the vetting process could be completed by the Super Bowl, according to sources close to the sale.

The team is expected to draw heavy interest, but at the top of the list is current team President John Kent Cooke, son of the late Jack Kent Cooke, whose estate owns the team.

The Redskins must be sold to abide by Jack Kent Cooke's will, with the proceeds put into a foundation for underprivileged children.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. in New York has been hired to handle the sale, with experts predicting the price to exceed the $530 million paid by banker Al Lerner for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns price includes $54 million earmarked for construction of a new publicly financed stadium.

Even with its half-billion dollar price tag, the Redskins, one of the NFL's premier franchises, won't be lacking for bidders.

"The value of the franchise has not decreased," said Brian McGough, managing director at Banc One Corp. "Look at the step-up in value in the purchase price from the Vikings transaction that was under $300 million to the Cleveland transaction. But sports franchises are still attractive assets."

John Kent Cooke has said that he will try to buy the team, but under NFL ownership rules, he must fund at least 30 percent of the purchase price.

Cooke and the Redskins aren't commenting on the process, but in a statement Cooke made it clear that he intends to try to retain control.

"I hope ownership of the team is resolved in the near future and that it continues to be in my family," Cooke said.

Other names that have surfaced in the bidding process include New York investment banker Andrew Penson, who bid on the Browns, and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

"There will also be some local interest," McGough said, adding that he expects the Redskins sale to be completed by late in the first quarter of next year.

Staff writer Daniel Kaplan contributed to this report.

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