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NFL OKs Vikings Bid, Browns Plan

July 28, 1998

GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) _ Red McCombs’ wardrobe Tuesday showed just how sure he was that NFL owners would approve his purchase of the Minnesota Vikings.

McCombs sported a purple and white Vikings golf shirt under his navy blazer.

The San Antonio businessman had even told his wife, Charline, who was vacationing in Colorado, to ``dress in purple, sleep in purple sheets.″

McCombs’ confidence was rewarded Tuesday when the owners voted unanimously to approve his $250 million purhase of the Vikings.

During the same meeting, owners approved a plan for stocking the expansion Cleveland Browns, who will begin play in 1999 as a replacement for the team that moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season.

The Browns will get at least 30 veteran players from other teams and 14 extra draft picks in their first two years, including next year’s first overall pick, commissioner Paul Tagliabue said.

Tagliabue and several owners said the goal was to make the Browns competitive immediately, just like the last two expansion teams, the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

``I think the Cleveland Browns will be contending for a Super Bowl very soon,″ Dallas Cowboys owners Jerry Jones said. ``They certainly end up with a No. 1 pick ... and multiple draft picks.″

``I think they’ll be very competitive,″ said Pat Bowlen, owner of the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. ``That’s what happened in Jacksonville and Carolina. They were both in the playoffs their second year.″

At least six groups are bidding to buy the Browns, and a seventh, possibly including basketball star Michael Jordan, surfaced Monday. Tagliabue said owners will meet again Aug. 19 to hear from bidders with the goal of picking a buyer by mid-September.

The Browns’ price tag was a major subject of speculation Tuesday. The NFL has hired investment bankers Goldman Sachs to oversee the bidding, which Jones said could go as high as $900 million.

Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, said nothing in the way of price would surprise him, considering the meteoric rise of NFL television contracts, player salaries and even the stock market.

The more, the merrier, indicated McCombs.

``Well, now that I’m a member of the lodge I hope it is very high,″ he laughed. ``I think these franchises are just worth significantly more than I paid.″

The approval of the Vikings’ sale to McCombs was expected after the league’s finance committee unanimously endorsed the sale Monday night.

McCombs repeated his promise to keep the team in Minnesota, even though he has long sought an NFL franchise for San Antonio.

``I think the Vikings are a Minnesota institution, and I have no plan or thought to operate the Vikings anywhere but Minnesota,″ the 70-year-old car dealer said.

McCombs warned, however, that the Vikings need a new stadium to bring in more revenue. ``I expect the people of Minnesota will address this problem.″

McCombs said he understands that Minnesota fans could be worried by the sight of a Texan buying their team.

``They should be concerned about that,″ McCombs said. ``I don’t expect that issue to go away. But I will do everything I can to see that the Vikings are competitive in Minnesota.″

McCombs added that he will continue to lobby for a team in San Antonio.

``I think the fans of San Antonio, Austin and South Texas dearly expect and deserve to have a team,″ McCombs said. ``I will still work within the league to see if there is any way San Antonio can have a team.″

McCombs said, however, San Antonio’s chances are much worse now than six years ago, when the city was bidding for one of two expansion teams.

McCombs, who first bid $187 million for the Vikings in February, confirmed that he paid $250 million for 96 percent of the Vikings’ stock. One of the club’s original owners will retain 4 percent. McCombs’ bid was accepted by the team’s ownership July 2, and McCombs said he expects the deal to close by mid-August.

McCombs at one point appeared to be outbid by a group including spy-novel author Tom Clancy. But Clancy didn’t have the financing to back his bid, giving McCombs another shot.

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