SBJ/January 25 - 31, 1999/No Topic Name

Change signals close look at Skins bid

Hold everything.

That's the message sent by NFL owners as they canceled a meeting that was set for Thursday during Super Bowl week in Miami. Owners were expected to address and possibly vote on the $800 million sale of the Washington Redskins and to discuss expansion issues.

"It was decided that we'd be better served by meeting in Atlanta on Feb. 16," said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.

Instead of a full owners' meeting discussing the Redskins sale to a group led by New York real estate tycoon Howard Milstein, the league's finance committee will convene in Miami to evaluate Milstein's $800 million bid.

Milstein and his partner, Daniel Snyder, have an ownership agreement by virtue of outbidding Redskins President John Kent Cooke, Arizona shopping center magnate Sam Grossman, Texas businessman Peter Bonderman and a group led by Cablevision Systems Corp. Chairman Charles Dolan.

Though the trustees chose the Milstein bid, it's still no guarantee Milstein and Snyder will get the team. League owners must approve the sale by a three-fourths vote, and the league will pay strict attention to the deal, particularly since the Redskins have been in the Cooke family for decades.

"We had hoped that [the Redskins sale] could be put on [the NFL owners'] agenda, but they informed us that they needed more time to get information together," said a Milstein-Snyder source. "We have a binding contract with the Redskins trustees, and the trustees have publicly stated that they have a contract with us. If the trustees and the NFL choose to get together and talk about that and anyone else's bid, it's their prerogative."

The Redskins were put on the block last fall to comply with the will of the late Redskins owner, Jack Kent Cooke (John Kent Cooke's father), who died in April 1997.

Redskins trustees selected the Milstein bid Jan. 10, but the league's finance committee wants to compare it with competing offers.

"The message being sent to Milstein is that the owners will evaluate the acquisition very carefully, and they have a fairly unfettered right to approve or disapprove owners," said Marc Ganis, president of Sportscorp Ltd. in Chicago. Ganis, who was part of Tom Clancy's unsuccessful effort to buy the Minnesota Vikings last year, said the league will subject Milstein's bid to heavy scrutiny because of Cooke's long involvement in the NFL.

"John Cooke has been an active member of the NFL for decades, and the Redskins have been very successful," he said. "That's the type of person you want to keep in the NFL."

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