Despite sounding as determined as ever to bring an NFL football team back to Los Angeles, Ed Roski Jr. no longer dreams of owning one. And now, even his chances of brokering an L.A. football deal are looking more remote.
In an interview late last week, Roski conceded that he would be satisfied to accept nothing more than "a good football seat" as compensation for helping to bring an NFL to the Coliseum.
"I will continue to work to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles and the Coliseum," he said. "Whether I have an ownership in the team or not doesn't make any difference."
That concession was punctuated last week when his Majestic Realty Co. agreed to buy the Las Vegas Hilton hotel/casino from Park Place Entertainment for more than $300 million. (NFL rules prohibit owners from participating in the gaming industry.)
Roski's fading role became even more apparent when county supervisor and Coliseum Commission president Zev Yaroslavsky last week said there was no way Roski would get the exclusive rights to make an NFL deal.
"I know he would like to have an exclusive relationship, but I don't think not having an exclusive relationship hurts him. If he brings a team to the Coliseum, that's great, but it's a long shot," said Yaroslavsky, who was attending a press conference to announce that the new Xtreme Football League would play its home games at the Coliseum starting in February 2001.
While praising Roski's efforts to bring an NFL team here, Yaroslavsky also said the possibility of a team coming soon "doesn't look good."
"That's bull****," Roski said in response. "There's been and continues to be interest from a number of NFL teams wanting to come into this market. We have to prepare the situation. We're trying to do the right thing, trying to put ourselves in a situation where if the opportunity arises soon, we'll be ready."
The Arizona Cardinals were touted as the most likely candidate to move only a few months ago, but things have changed. The team is now waiting for the outcome of a measure on the November ballot that would publicly fund the building of a new stadium. And neither the Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings nor any other prospect has emerged as a leading candidate.
The lack of serious prospects is likely a primary reason that Roski's New Coliseum Partners was the only group to respond to a request for proposals from the Coliseum Commission in May. Under Roski's proposal, a team would bear the brunt of a $400 million renovation necessary to modernize the stadium and install luxury boxes, and in return would lease the Coliseum for $1 a year. Also as part of the proposal, Roski's group would get exclusive rights to broker the deal, but would not necessarily buy part of the team.
In addition to discounting Roski's chances for exclusivity, Yaroslavsky also questioned the $1 annual lease fee. But given the hostile reaction last fall to the idea of any sort of public funding to win an NFL franchise, Roski thinks the minimal lease fee is the only way to get a team to commit to move.
Roski has been working to entice an existing team to move to L.A. ever since he and fellow billionaire Eli Broad lost out on their bid for the NFL's newest expansion franchise last year. Houston was awarded the team thanks to a record $700 million franchise fee. But if Roski's group had won, he would have been forced to make a decision on selling the Silverton Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, which he bought in 1997.
"The bottom line is that the NFL does prohibit an owner from (owning a casino)," said league spokesman Brian McCarthy. "Back when Mr. Roski was pursuing an NFL franchise, it was an issue the NFL brought up, but it didn't get to that (make-or-break) point."
Roski is under the apparently mistaken impression that the NFL's objection to having gaming ties is informal, not explicit. And he is avoiding any conflict of interest on his other sports interests (he's part owner of the Lakers and Kings) by discontinuing basketball and hockey betting at the Hilton as he did at the Silverton, as required by the NBA and NHL.
The NFL would not have a problem with Roski brokering a deal to get a team to move from another part of the country to L.A., as long as he didn't have an ownership stake in the team, McCarthy said.
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