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Eddie DeBartolo would be interested, but knows of no sale plans for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

EDITOR'S NOTE: A correction notice has been appended to the end of this story.

MOBILE, Ala. — Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the five-time Super Bowl champion as former owner of the 49ers, said he would buy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if they were for sale.

But DeBartolo says the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs and the Manchester United soccer club, has no plans to divest itself of the NFL team.

"The Glazers are friends of mine, and I have no reason to believe the Bucs are for sale," DeBartolo told the Times on Tuesday.

"Tampa has been my home for the past nine years, and if the team was for sale, I would definitely be interested in putting together an ownership group to buy the Buccaneers. But I have no reason to believe they're for sale."

There has been recent speculation that the Glazers might consider selling the Bucs because of the large debt they reportedly incurred in their $1.4 billion purchase of Manchester United.

Manchester United CEO David Gill has been quoted as saying the Glazers took 660 million pounds (or $915 million) of debt when they purchased the soccer club. He said they are paying $59.9 million per year to service the debt.

Since their purchase of Man U in 2004, the Bucs did not pay enormous signing bonuses for many top-flight free agents until signing former Saints center Jeff Faine to a six-year, $37.5 million contract in March with $15 million guaranteed.

On Friday, the Bucs fired coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen. Both signed three-year extensions last season, leaving the Glazers on the hook for about $25 million over the next three years.

They replaced them with two in-house candidates — defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, who became the youngest NFL coach at 32; and Mark Dominik, 37, who replaced Allen as GM.

For two years, DeBartolo has owned DeBartolo Sports and Entertainment, a full service agency in Tampa that represents athletes and broadcasters, and provides consulting services to corporations.

DeBartolo, 62, voluntarily resigned his position as owner of the 49ers because of his involvement in a riverboat casino license case that led to the conviction of then-Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.

DeBartolo pleaded guilty in federal court of failing to report that Edwards extorted $400,000 from him to win a casino license. In '99 the NFL imposed a one-year suspension, which automatically terminated on Jan. 31, 2000. He also paid a $1-million fine.

In a letter from then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to DeBartolo and his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, dated Feb. 14, 2000, Tagliabue wrote: "I am not aware of any basis for extending the league-imposed suspension and I do not expect to do so."

But DeBartolo eventually sold the 49ers to his sister, Denise, and brother-in-law John York.

Over the years, DeBartolo has been approached by other NFL teams to gauge his interest in ownership, but he has concentrated his efforts on his real estate empire and the sports and entertainment agency.

CORRECTION: Eddie DeBartolo Jr.'s sold the San Francisco 49ers to his sister and brother-in-law of his own accord. Earlier versions of this story in print and online mischaracterized the reasons for the sale.

Fast Facts

About Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

Born: Nov. 6, 1946,

Youngstown, Ohio

Resides: Tampa

Family: Son and heir of the late Eddie Sr., who made his fortune as a developer, especially of shopping malls; Eddie Jr., a Notre Dame graduate, has three daughters.

Eddie DeBartolo would be interested, but knows of no sale plans for Tampa Bay Buccaneers 01/20/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 8:34am]
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