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NL president: S.F. bid must come today

A San Francisco investment group, having lost lead investor George Shinn, will meet today with National League president Bill White in what appears to be its last chance to save the Giants.

"They know (today) is it, one way or the other," White told the St. Petersburg Times on Sunday.

"There are no more extensions. They understand that. There are no more extensions for an offer to me. They'll come with an offer or I don't know what they'll do. We're already on track with Tampa-St. Petersburg."

It was unclear Sunday night if the San Francisco group would present an acceptable purchase offer today in New York or seek to request more time.

White and deputy commissioner Steve Greenberg both said Sunday they did not know if the group would indeed make an offer. And, White said, "even if they do submit one it will have to be compared with the Tampa-St. Petersburg offer."

San Francisco representatives were issuing mixed signals and said the situation was still evolving Sunday night.

"We can neither confirm nor deny that there will be an offer," said Rich Chicotel, spokesman for San Francisco developer Walter Shorenstein, a leader of the investment group. And the statement announcing Shinn's departure said just that the meeting with White would be "to discuss the situation."

However, insurance executive Richard Goldman, a member of the group, said there would be a "very good" offer. Quentin Kopp, a California state senator, said he had talked with some group members and was assured there would be investors to "step in and supplement Shinn's part of the deal. There always was a backup plan in case something like this happened."

And San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan, who helped put together the potential ownership group, issued an optimistic statement Sunday.

"The only thing changing is the structure of the local investors," Jordan said. "I'm optimistic. We're all dedicated to saving the team."

Shinn and the San Francisco investors announced late Saturday that they "will not move forward together in an effort to purchase the team."

Shinn reportedly was to provide $50-million toward the purchase _ $20-million in cash and $30-million in borrowed money _ and aide Spencer Stolpen said the decision was made because both sides agreed the deal "just did not make good business sense."

Shinn called the team's financial records "disastrous" and said he and his bankers were concerned that the team's losses might jeopardize the financial stability of his NBA franchise, the Charlotte Hornets.

A Tampa Bay group made a deal Aug. 6 with Giants owner Bob Lurie to buy the team for $115-million. White stepped in on Sept. 9 and said he would allow San Francisco investors to also make a bid. The San Francisco group has promised that offer was forthcoming several times in the past month, but has yet to produce.

Although the loss of Shinn and the immediacy of today's deadline would appear to be a major blow for the San Francisco group, Tampa Bay leaders were quick to preach caution until they see what the San Francisco group produces today.

"No one here in Tampa Bay should get overly excited until the Monday deadline," St. Petersburg Assistant City Manager Rick Dodge said from his home.

Indeed, there was a sobering line of thinking expressed Sunday by baseball officials. It had been widely speculated Shinn would not have been approved as a team owner, so if the San Francisco investors were able to replace him they may have markedly improved their chances of keeping the team.

Several baseball officials indicated in recent weeks they did not think the San Francisco group would make a competitive offer. White has said a San Francisco offer must be "competitive" to the $115-million Tampa Bay bid and also indicated it must address the issues of a new stadium and include satisfactory working capital.

If the group does not produce a competitive offer today, it is expected the Tampa Bay offer to buy the team and move it to the Florida Suncoast Dome for next season will be approved.

Greenberg said Sunday he did not want to prejudge the San Francisco situation until after today's meeting.

But he said baseball officials would like to resolve the situation soon and indicated the decision could come during the World Series, usually a blackout period for off-field baseball news.

But both Greenberg and White said they could not predict a timetable.

Baseball's Ownership Committee has been reviewing the Tampa Bay group and is expected to make a favorable recommendation. Committee chairman Fred Kuhlmann said last month: "I think they're pretty well set."

The sale and move would also need the blessing of baseball's Executive Council, a 10-member body which is running the game in the absence of a commissioner.

The final step is approval from 10 of the 14 National League owners and eight of the 14 American League owners. There is expected to be no AL opposition and minimal NL opposition. It requires a 10-day notification period to call a league meeting, although the vote could be handled by telephone.

"Nobody knows how quickly the Ownership Committee can make a recommendation, how quickly the Executive Council can make a recommendation and how quickly the full ownership can vote," Greenberg said. "Those are the three events that have to happen."

Bud Selig, the Milwaukee Brewers' owner who is serving as chairman of the Executive Council, said Sunday it was premature to speculate what the latest developments meant for Tampa Bay's 15-year quest for a team.

"I just learned about it," Selig said from Milwaukee. "I really don't know."

Tampa Bay group leader Vincent Naimoli is in Japan on non-baseball business and was not available for comment. He has been pushing for immediate approval so construction can begin on finishing the Suncoast Dome for baseball.

Timetable

Whether a San Francisco group makes an offer to National League president Bill White today or not, don't expect a decision on the future of the Giants immediately. Whether there is one bid (Tampa Bay's) or two, three steps still will be necessary to settle the issue:

1. Approval of the Ownership Committee on either or both groups. The Ownership Committee reportedly is ready to approve the Tampa Bay group. A new offer from a refurbished group from San Francisco could require additional scrutiny.

2. Approval of baseball's Executive Council, a 10-member panel of owners and both league presidents. This could be accomplished on a conference call.

3. Approval of the league ownership, with consent from eight of 14 American League and 10 of 14 National League owners necessary for any ownership change. The AL owners most likely will vote via conference call. However, if any serious discussion is necessary among NL owners, they most likely would call for a formal meeting.

Under league rules, no meeting can be called without 10 days' notice. Baseball also has been reluctant in the past to create off-the-field news during the World Series (which begins Saturday and could run as late as Oct. 25).

A single bid with little or no opposition, however, could allow the NL vote to be handled in a conference call as well and speed up any decision considerably.

_ Material from the San Francisco Examiner and the Charlotte Observer was used in this report.

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