View Full Version : Fowler decision will be made in late May...at the earliest

03-11-2005, 07:13 AM
NFL owners say little about Fowler's franchise bid
Finance committee reviews background

Craig Harris
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 10, 2005 12:00 AM

FORT LAUDERDALE - NFL owners Wednesday took the Reggie Fowler approach on Reggie Fowler.

They said very little.

After huddling for about an hour in a conference room in an upscale hotel, most members of the NFL's Finance Committee had few words about the reclusive Chandler entrepreneur looking to buy the Minnesota Vikings.

Just two owners provided a positive outlook on Fowler's reported $625 million bid, and Commissioner Paul Tagliabue declined to answer questions.

"We still have a long way to go," said Pat Bowlen, a committee member and owner of the Denver Broncos. "We had positive discussions, but I don't want to say more."

New England owner Robert Kraft said he liked what he heard about Fowler but wanted to know more. New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, finance committee chairman, had no comment.

The powerful committee, which will advise owners on whether Fowler should join their ranks, was examining his offer, announced Feb. 14 in Minneapolis, for the first time.

Fowler, who shies away from publicity, was not asked to attend the regularly scheduled committee meeting. A spokeswoman, in a phone interview, said Fowler remained confident he would own the Vikings.

If league owners admit Fowler, 46, a self-made millionaire who came from humble roots in Tucson, he would become the first African-American to own an NFL team.

"I think in all our decisions we try to be open," Kraft said. "If it gives us an opportunity to bring in a person of color as an owner, that would be great for the NFL. But I think anyone with a half a brain should understand that."

Roger Goodell, the league's chief operating officer, said the NFL would continue its examination of Fowler, which could include interviews with him, and make another report at the league meetings that begin March 20 in Maui, Hawaii.

The earliest a vote on the sale could occur is during an owners meeting in late May in Washington, Goodell said.

Goodell declined to say what the committee members reviewed Wednesday, but league rules require Fowler to undergo a thorough financial background check.

"It's not just about the money," Goodell said. "We are selecting a partner, and that's a very important decision for the NFL."

Houston Texans owner Robert McNair said he did not know if Fowler has the resources to buy the Vikings.

"That's part of the process," McNair said. "The process has just started."

Leslie Kupchella, a spokeswoman for Fowler, said he has been very pleased with the process.

"He's looking forward to NFL approval," she said.

While NFL owners primarily are interested in whether Fowler has the financial capability to consummate the deal, issues also have been raised regarding Fowler's reputation.

The league has steadfastly worked to bolster its corporate image after the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" fiasco during the 2004 Super Bowl, and owners are hesitant to admit an applicant with public relations warts.

Fowler's business practices and personal relationships have come under question in media reports since he emerged last summer as the leading suitor for the Vikings. Media outlets, including The Arizona Republic, have reported that:

• Since 1998, Fowler's Chandler-based Spiral Inc., the parent for myriad businesses, had been sued at least 19 times in Maricopa County Superior Court and two city justice courts for a combined $578,000 for non-payment of bills, contracts or employee wages. Fowler has said it's common for businesses to be involved in lawsuits.

• Fowler settled a suit last week with a Wisconsin cheese company for allegedly not paying a $196,000 bill.

• Fowler has a stake in two car washes with a convicted felon who spent more than eight months in prison in 2000 for involvement in a basketball point-shaving scandal at Arizona State University. Fowler is merely in a tenant-landlord relationship, with Fowler owning the property, Kupchella said.

• Fowler's public relations firm distributed erroneous information that embellished events from his childhood, education, football and professional career.

Kupchella said the intense media scrutiny has been a "new environment" for him, and it has been difficult at times because he so closely guards his privacy.

"He has never found himself in the limelight before," she said.
What's next?

The NFL Finance Committee will continue its examination of Reggie Fowler and make a report at the league meetings that begin March 20 in Maui, Hawaii. Late May is the earliest a vote on the sale of the Vikings could occur.


03-11-2005, 07:29 AM