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Oprah: I’m Not Buying the Bears

November 14, 1997

CHICAGO (AP) _ Talk show host Oprah Winfrey denied a report that she is among a group of celebrities interested in buying the Chicago Bears.

``This is totally false,″ said a statement from Winfrey’s Harpo Productions today. ``Neither Oprah nor anyone else at Harpo has had conversations about this and Oprah is not interested in buying any sports team at this time.″

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Winfrey was among a group that includes Walter Payton and Michael Jordan that wants to buy the Bears.

``The team is not for sale,″ Bears spokesman Brian Harlan said today. ``There is no indication that the team will be for sale in the foreseeable future.″

Payton, the NFL’s career rushing leader, has made no secret of his desire to be the first black owner in the league. And the Sun-Times cited unidentified sources saying he has financial backing from several potential investors, including Jordan and Winfrey.

Payton and Jordan were unavailable for comment.

The Bears are 1-9 season and team president Michael McCaskey has been frustrated with his failure to garner support for a new publicly financed stadium.

Virginia McCaskey, the daughter of Bears founder George Halas, has controlling interest in the team and has sworn to keep it in family hands. But Payton is popular with the McCaskeys, who appointed him to the team’s board of directors after he retired from the Bears in 1987.

Financial World magazine recently estimated the value of the franchise at $204 million.

Crain’s Chicago Business estimates Payton’s income at $3 million a year, not nearly enough to launch a serious purchase effort on his own. But Winfrey and Jordan make a financial dream team. Forbes Magazine estimated the talk show host’s worth at more than $550 million, and Jordan took in about $80 million last year alone from endorsement deals and his Chicago Bulls contract.

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