SBJ/July 26 - August 1, 1999/No Topic Name

Raider rumors hover over L.A. dealings

If efforts to bring a new NFL franchise to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum fail, might billionaire Marvin Davis build a stadium at Hollywood Park — possibly with Al Davis' Oakland Raiders as a tenant?

Although some football sources discount a Davis-Davis partnership as laughable, one rumor circulating in sports business circles for the last several weeks has Al Davis buying out of his lease with Oakland and Alameda County authorities to bring the Raiders to a new stadium at Hollywood Park.

Fueling the talk is doubt by some that neither of L.A.'s rival bidders — superagent Michael Ovitz and billionaire Eli Broad — will be able to come up with a deal that satisfies NFL owners. If they don't devise such a plan by mid-September, the NFL has said it would award the league's 32nd franchise to Houston.

With all the problems that have surfaced in the latest efforts to bring a new NFL team to Los Angeles, some people are even wondering why they didn't take the deal Al Davis proposed at Hollywood Park in 1995. And the two Davises are said to know and like each other, which is also giving the rumor legs.

In March, Marvin Davis bought an option to buy 94 acres at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., where Al Davis had once planned a new football stadium.

"There is no question about Mr. [Marvin] Davis being very serious [about a football stadium at Hollywood Park]," said Roosevelt Dorn, mayor of Inglewood.

Dorn said that Marvin Davis' top advisers visited him at City Hall in the last six weeks to discuss the potential of a football stadium.

Among the topics of discussion was whether a new stadium could use the completed environmental impact report that was approved for the Raiders' planned stadium back in 1995. "We don't think it is necessary to obtain a new EIR," Dorn said.

The city, which is losing the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings later this year when the teams move from the Forum in Inglewood to the new Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, is interested in the idea of getting an NFL team, Dorn said.

"The city is prepared to work with Mr. Davis to complete an appropriate deal for a franchise," Dorn said. "The city is prepared to do whatever it is financially able to do."

Dorn said, however, that he has not had any discussions with the Raiders or the NFL.

The Raiders have 12 years left on a lease to play at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, although that lease is the subject of a lawsuit that is expected to be tried early next year, said Deena McClain, general counsel for the Coliseum Authority. McClain said she was not aware of any settlement discussions that would allow the Raiders to leave Oakland.

The Raiders are also involved in a lawsuit alleging that the NFL unfairly forced them out of Los Angeles.

The Raiders declined comment on whether they would be interested in joining with Marvin Davis at Hollywood Park or whether they had settlement discussions in their lawsuit in Oakland.

But Raiders CEO Amy Trask said that the Raiders would be playing at Hollywood Park now, had it not been for the NFL.

"The fact of the matter is we had in place a transaction which would have delivered a privately funded, state-of the art stadium to the whole Los Angeles area," Trask said. "If the league then had not destroyed that transaction, that stadium today would be A, completed; B, magnificent; and C, privately funded.

"In this case, the league's malicious behavior has harmed all of Southern California, and since they destroyed that transaction in 1995, the league has been scrambling to fix the mess in Los Angeles, and they are scared."

Meanwhile, time is running out on Marvin Davis' option on the Hollywood Park land, said Norm Cravens, Hollywood Park senior vice president. The option will expire at the end of September unless Davis pays "a lot of money" to renew it, Cravens said.

Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal columnist Bert Sugar contributed to this report.

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