Bucs trust waits for the first move
Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times, published 12 December 1994

It never was intended to be a fire sale, but negotiations with groups trying to purchase the Bucs have been slow to heat up. Stephen Story, a member of the three-man trust trying to sell the team, said Sunday that no formal offer has been made for the Bucs but that he is hopeful talks will produce one as early as this week.

"I think everyone is reluctant to be the first one (to make an offer)," Story said. "I don't know what's going to happen. I think once there's one firm offer made, we'll hear from a lot of people in pretty rapid order. We had the hopes that something would get done by the end of next week. I still think that's a good timeline. I think we've said by Dec. 15 we'd like to have activity. Hopefully, that's what happens. I think everybody is kind of waltzing around the issue and nobody wants to be the first one at the dance. I think somebody will come forward."

Story and trustee Jack Donlan met Friday with groups led by Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Palm Beach millionaire George Lindemann. Angelos reportedly is prepared to pay $200-million for the Bucs and move them to Baltimore. Lindemann would keep the team in Tampa Bay. But Story said no formal offers have been made. "Until it's in writing and there's a check, there is no offer. Everybody is talking wild numbers," Story said. "(Angelos) kind of skirts the issue as far as numbers. We'll see what happens."

Story reiterated that the trust would prefer to keep the Bucs in Tampa Bay and said it would consider accepting a lower offer if it meant avoiding legal battles and NFL relocation hurdles. "We think there are reasons we can do different deals with different people," Story said. "Everybody brings something different to the table. We can evaluate that. It's a subjective process."

At least two local ownership groups, one led by George Steinbrenner and the other by Outback Steakhouse executives Chris Sullivan and Bob Basham and Tampa developer Tommy Shannon, still are considering making an offer for the Bucs. According to Story, no group of investors has emerged as the favorite to purchase the team. Friday's meetings with Angelos and Lindemann's financial adviser were described as preliminary.

Story and Donlan also met with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue in New York on Friday to discuss league matters such as revenue sharing and to keep him abreast of the sale process. "We didn't discuss anything regarding relocation," Story said. "We just generally updated him on where we stood, what groups were involved - those that were out of town and those that were in town. It was just a continuation of the other meetings. I didn't find anything either more or less encouraging. I would think now that everybody has financials, that would start the ball rolling."

Story said he was uncertain whether the NFL would be able to prevent the Bucs from relocating if no offer was forthcoming from Tampa investors. "The league has the power; I'm not sure if they're fully capable of exercising it," Story said. "I don't know of their enforceability. We've not retained any outside counsel or discussed antitrust. It would be totally a legal issue that Angelos would have to consider. I'm sure right now he's evaluating, `Can I buy the team and move it?' "

Story said representatives of two other unnamed groups are hoping to meet with the trustees this week but no meetings are planned.