49ers Consolidate Control of Club
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Denise DeBartolo York, seeking to clarify the lines of power in the San Francisco 49ers organization, on Wednesday put her husband in charge of the team and moved to cut off co-owner Eddie DeBartolo’s access to club coffers.
Sam Singer, spokesman for the Edward J. DeBartolo Corp., confirmed the report by the San Francisco Examiner, which said it obtained a memo detailing the team’s new command structure.
``This memo released today just gave clear direction to the team that Denise is in charge of the team for the foreseeable future,″ Singer said. ``We don’t know when Eddie will return, but Denise is happily taking helm of the team.″
The development is the strongest sign yet that DeBartolo’s exile from the team, which arose due to legal problems in Louisiana, won’t end any time soon.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said last month that the banishment of DeBartolo, who withdrew from active management of the team in December 1997, would likely be extended at least through the 1999 season.
It’s not known how the latest management changes will affect the 49ers’ already stalled plans for a $525 million stadium and mall. York has put that project on hold because of soaring construction cost estimates.
``I hope that you can appreciate my efforts to provide you clear direction and to assure compliance with NFL directives,″ York said in the memo obtained by the Examiner and distributed to all 49ers employees at a staff meeting Wednesday.
``Please be assured that Eddie was provided a copy of this ... before it was issued. While I would not be surprised if he is not in agreement with some of these decisions, I know that he understands my concerns and appreciates that this memorandum was issued at my direction to provide everyone with a clear set of guidelines.″
York, who is chairwoman and chief executive officer of the 49ers parent firm, the Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. of Youngstown, Ohio, gave her husband, John York, and an aide, Keith Lenhart, oversight responsibility for the team. John York is a DeBartolo Corp. senior vice president and member of the board of directors. Lenhart is the corporate controller. Both men will add the title of 49ers vice president.
Earlier, Mrs. York, in consultation with her brother, had named former 49ers head coach Bill Walsh team vice president and general manager, making him responsible for the team’s day-to-day operations.
Walsh said the football operations have been unaffected by the ownership tumult, but conceded that plans for a new stadium are uncertain.
``I don’t honestly think there is any difference at this time between how Eddie DeBartolo would be managing this team and Denise DeBartolo’s management,″ Walsh said. ``I don’t see any difference in philosophy. ...Now, stadium-wise, I’m not sure of.″
DeBartolo had no immediate comment and did not return a phone call to his San Mateo office. League spokesman Greg Aiello said the NFL viewed the management moves as a team matter.
DeBartolo stepped down as head of the team’s operations in December 1997 when his role in a federal gambling and bribery case in Louisiana became public. He pleaded guilty in October to a federal felony _ failure to report an alleged extortion attempt in connection with the government’s prosecution of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.
In the memo, the Examiner said Denise York ordered 49ers personnel not to answer DeBartolo’s questions about club management unless they are put in writing and forwarded to club executive John McVay, with copies sent to her.
She also said she must pre-approve any request by DeBartolo for cash reimbursements for his expenses.
``When Eddie was involved in the direct management of this team, he enjoyed many of the benefits, which are earned when undertaking such responsibility. He no longer functions in that capacity,″ Denise York wrote.