Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer dies

The night was cold, and the hour was growing late. And yet no one standing shoulder to shoulder in the bleachers of Raymond James Stadium seemed to pay it any mind.

At that point, the Buccaneers had been Super Bowl champions a little less than 24 hours, and yet more than 60,000 fans had flocked to the stadium on short notice that Monday evening in 2003 to welcome their team home from San Diego.

When finally the Bucs arrived and the cheers began to soar — cheers forged by decades of losses, heartbreak, blunders and ridicule — it was this sprite of a man in a tweed coat and reddish beard who was holding a trophy above his head and leading a swaggering group of conquerors onto the field.

This was Malcolm Glazer at the pinnacle of his success in Tampa Bay.

Previous years hadn't always been smooth for the Bucs owner, and subsequent days would grow rocky too. But that moment is what bay area fans will likely always recall when thinking about the man who rescued a franchise once at risk of disappearing.

Malcolm Glazer, who had been in declining health for a number of years after suffering two strokes, died Wednesday morning. He was 85.

"He was responsible, I think, for the Buccaneers turning the corner,'' said Jon Gruden, who was head coach of the Super Bowl team. "He improved everything about the organization, from their image to their colors to their reputation. They became a global franchise after winning the Super Bowl. He deserves a tremendous amount of credit.''

The Bucs franchise, which has been run in recent years by three of Mr. Glazer's sons, is expected to remain under the family's ownership.

Little was known about Mr. Glazer when he first came to Tampa Bay's attention in 1994 as a potential buyer of the team that had, arguably, the NFL's worst reputation.

He had grown up as one of seven children in Rochester, N.Y., and took over his family's watch repair business at age 15 when his father died. A tireless worker, Mr. Glazer soon began investing in real estate and would eventually amass a fortune valued today at $4 billion, including the Bucs and famed soccer team Manchester United of England.

His business portfolio would eventually include restaurant chains, TV stations and large chunks of the Harley Davidson motorcycle company that he tried to purchase in an unfriendly takeover.

"He was shy, he was quiet, he was unassuming as billionaires go,'' Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "His story was a true rags-to-riches. It was an American success story.''

When previous Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse died in 1994, the franchise was in complete disarray. The team had a historic streak of losing seasons, and then-Tampa Stadium was routinely half-empty. Some potential local buyers emerged but their offer was well below market value, and there was growing concern the team would be bought by Orioles owner Peter Angelos and moved to Baltimore.

When Glazer, who lived in Palm Beach, offered what was then a record amount of $192 million for a sports franchise, it effectively saved the Bucs in Tampa Bay.

"He took a chance on this team,'' said Bucs Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks, who was drafted the same year Mr. Glazer assumed control. "He bought this team when people were saying it was probably one of the worst decisions he could make.''

His role as savior was quickly in doubt as Mr. Glazer seemed to suggest the team could be moved to Orlando if a new stadium was not built. His hardball tactics, which served him well in his business ventures, went a long way toward getting Raymond James Stadium built and solidifying the team's finances for years to come.

He briefly flirted with big-name hires before giving Tony Dungy his first shot at being a head coach in 1996, a move that would ultimately change the team's fortunes.

Mr. Glazer also began to spend freely to acquire coveted players such as Keyshawn Johnson, Simeon Rice and Brad Johnson, along with Gruden as coach in 2002.

"Malcolm Glazer was the guiding force behind the building of a Super Bowl-champion organization,'' NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "His dedication to the community was evident in all he did.''

His run of success with the Bucs declined dramatically with the firing of Gruden after the 2008 season. The turn in fortunes could even be traced back a few years earlier when the family purchased Manchester United, one of the world's most valuable franchises, for more than $1.4 billion.

While the soccer team has gone on to win a number of league titles, the Bucs have gone six seasons without making the playoffs and have not won a postseason game since the Super Bowl over Oakland in January 2003.

But to put his stewardship in perspective, Mr. Glazer owned the Bucs for exactly half of the franchise's existence. Tampa Bay was 87-204-1 with three playoff appearances in the 19 years before his arrival. The Bucs went 146-158 with seven playoff appearances in the 19 years since Mr. Glazer purchased the team.

"The first thing that comes to mind is how successful he was at everything he touched,'' said former Bucs general manager Rich McKay. "People don't realize how many different businesses he was in, and every one of them was successful, whether it was retail, apartments, the Bucs, owning television stations.''

He rarely appeared in public and granted interviews even less frequently. Associates say he was devoted to his wife, Linda, and six children and did not often venture far from his Palm Beach home. After two strokes in 2006, Mr. Glazer became even more reclusive.

"He and his wife really raised a very close-knit family that sticks together and they all get along,'' said former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. "They're very, very family-oriented. I give the parents a lot of credit for that.''

Even as he withdrew from the public eye, Mr. Glazer's influence in Tampa Bay has grown beyond the football field. The Glazer Family Foundation has given millions to charities, including the children's museum in Tampa that bears the family's name.

"Malcolm Glazer was one of the most unique people I've ever known,'' said Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan. "He seemed to have a mosaic of disparate talents and traits. Undeniably he has made an incredible impact on Tampa Bay through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and as the benefactor of our children's museum. Both legacies are equally meaningful and very, very appreciated.''

Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco frequently sat with Mr. Glazer in his suite at Bucs games and said he was a remarkably reserved and soft-spoken man who did not seem to have much more than a casual sports fan's grasp of football. They once were discussing an athlete who was buying tennis shoes for underprivileged children, and Mr. Glazer began telling the story of desperately wanting a new pair of shoes as a child.

When his mother could finally afford a pair, she bought them too large. So Mr. Glazer filled the toes of the shoes with paper and would remove pieces of paper as his feet grew.

He told Greco that he thought about that every time he bought a pair of expensive shoes.

"This guy was an unusual person,'' Greco said. "He didn't fit what you'd think a sports personality would be. Everybody expects somebody in sports to be loud and boisterous and say funny things.

"Mr. Glazer was not a sports person at all. He didn't know much about football. He just knew business. And to him, it was a business.''

Mr. Glazer is survived by his wife, Linda, sons Avram, Kevin, Bryan, Joel and Ed and daughter Darcie and 14 grandchildren.

Times staff writers Richard Danielson, Jamal Thalji, Matt Baker, Greg Auman, Stephen F. Holder and Sue Carlton contributed to this report.

 
Comments
Buccaneers AfterMath: The kicker problem and how to solve it

Buccaneers AfterMath: The kicker problem and how to solve it

On “Separation Sunday” in the NFL, it was gut-check time for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They didn’t pass, dropping their third straight game.In a 34-29 loss to the Falcons in Atlanta, the defense struggled to get off the field on thi...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Mike Smith’s firing means the Bucs got tired of wasting a decent offense

Mike Smith’s firing means the Bucs got tired of wasting a decent offense

TAMPA— Wow, who saw that coming?Let's be as clear: Former Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith, wished into the cornfield Monday, won't be the last person to carry a box out of the team's headquarters this season.Sunday's 34-29 loss in Atlanta...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Why the Bucs waited to fire Mike Smith

Why the Bucs waited to fire Mike Smith

TAMPA — Exactly two weeks ago, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter stood at the same podium following an embarrassing 48-10 loss at Chicago and asked this rhetorical question: "We fire Mike Smith. Okay, then what would the next move be?''Well, the Buc...
Published: 10/15/18
Bucs fire defensive coordinator Mike Smith

Bucs fire defensive coordinator Mike Smith

The Bucs have fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith.Smith's defense was last in 2017 and are allowing 34.6 points per game this season, the most in the league and are on pace to allow the most points in NFL history.Two weeks ago, the Bucs were embar...
Published: 10/15/18
The Bucs are suddenly 2-3, and you can see doom from here

The Bucs are suddenly 2-3, and you can see doom from here

TAMPA — So this is what the downward looks like. This is how the rest of the Bucs season will look, right on down to Dirk, let us help you with the big boxes.The Bucs are trapped like rats.So are their fans.The rest of the way will often go a l...
Published: 10/15/18
If DeSean Jackson scored on the final play, would it have counted?

If DeSean Jackson scored on the final play, would it have counted?

ATLANTA —It was a scintillating play, one that appeared to nearly work.But the Bucs last-gasp attempt to score from the 21 yard line as time expired in Sunday's 34-29 loss to Atlanta would not have counted even if receiver DeSean Jackson fielde...
Published: 10/15/18
Mike Evans’ pitch to DeSean Jackson on final play was bad, but his toss to the ref cost Bucs more

Mike Evans’ pitch to DeSean Jackson on final play was bad, but his toss to the ref cost Bucs more

The worst throw Mike Evans made in Sunday's last-gasp drive at Atlanta may not have been to receiver DeSean Jackson on the final play.Evans actually made a catch of a pass with 45 seconds remaining in the game at the Falcons' 41-yard line. But he tur...
Published: 10/15/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Defense puts Bucs in another hole in loss to Falcons

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Defense puts Bucs in another hole in loss to Falcons

The Bucs lose in Atlanta 34-29 as the defense gets off to another bad start. Jameis Winston brings them back in his first start of the season, but they lose on a crazy play that was very close to working.Rick Stroud and Times sports columnist Tom Jon...
Published: 10/15/18
Bucs-Falcons: Thrilling to the end, Jameis Winston’s return ends on a down note for Tampa Bay

Bucs-Falcons: Thrilling to the end, Jameis Winston’s return ends on a down note for Tampa Bay

ATLANTA — The last play of Sunday's 34-29 Bucs loss to the Falcons was a lot like the way Jameis Winston plays quarterback.It's a wild amusement park ride, adventurous and alluring, with thrilling peaks and painful pitfalls, the Mad Tea Pa...
Published: 10/14/18
DeSean Jackson bemoans missed opportunities in Bucs’ loss

DeSean Jackson bemoans missed opportunities in Bucs’ loss

ATLANTA — DeSean Jackson wasn’t looking forward to the film review of Tampa Bay’s third straight loss. He already knew the missed scoring opportunities would be the most painful part of the Buccaneers’ 34-29 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. Too...
Published: 10/14/18