SBJ/November 30 - December 6, 1998/No Topic Name

Ex-Arena chief selling team

Another Arena Football League expansion franchise was set to be sold last week, but don't look for either a press release from the league or a high-profile news conference like the one that introduced the new Los Angeles team a week earlier.

The franchise will not be sold by the league but by a former AFL commissioner, James Drucker. It may be the first instance of a professional sports league not selling one of its own expansion teams.

Drucker received an option to buy a team for slightly less than $1 million as part of his compensation package when he became commissioner of the league in 1994. He said he agreed to a lower cash salary in return for the franchise option. At the time, franchises were selling for $250,000, he said.

"It is really the equivalent of a stock option," said Drucker, who stepped down as commissioner in 1997. "That is what kept me up at night when I was commissioner and what fueled my enthusiasm for the league. Now that the price has gone where I thought it would go, I am willing to sell the team."

The AFL's Los Angeles franchise, which will be the AFL's 17th, was sold to Casey Wasserman for $5 million to $7 million, sources said. On Nov. 19, the league hosted a news conference at the site of the team's future home, the Staples Center.

But asked about the Drucker sale, the normally publicity-hungry league is more demure.

"We have had contact with Mr. Drucker," said David Cooper, an AFL spokesman. "He does have a right to sell an option. But one thing to make clear is that the team he does place in a city must be approved by the AFL board of directors. He can't just go into any city."

Drucker agreed, but said he is allowed to choose any city not within 75 miles of an AFL team. He was close to selling his option last week, so he would not disclose the city, the price or the identity of the buyer.

He did say that the city does not now have an NFL team. Previously, he said he would be willing to sell his option for $3.9 million.

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NFL, Staples

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