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$95-million questions: Is it enough? Now what?

A San Francisco group made a long-awaited offer to save the Giants that featured 12 investors, $95-million and two potential drawbacks _ a $20-million shortfall compared to the Tampa Bay bid, and no solid plan for a new stadium.

Responding more than two months after a Tampa Bay partnership made a deal to buy the team for $115-million, the San Francisco group Monday presented an offer it described as "fair, credible and competitive" to National League president Bill White during a three-hour meeting at baseball headquarters.

St. Petersburg Assistant City Manager Rick Dodge was not impressed. "I think it's remarkable that it's taken 10 weeks to end up with this kind of incomplete and illegal offer," Dodge said.

The San Francisco group is headed by Safeway grocery store CEO Peter Magowan and includes at least 12 other prominent San Francisco-area investors. The group scrambled after original lead investor George Shinn withdrew his $50-million late Saturday, Magowan said, and each of the remaining investors decided over the weekend to increase their shares in an effort to keep the team.

The bid will be reviewed and referred to the league owners, according to a statement from the National League office. A decision is expected by the end of the month.

Based on conversations with several baseball officials Monday night, the debate should be an interesting one.

"I'm sure there are going to be some mixed opinions," said Philadelphia Phillies owner Bill Giles.

Magowan and San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan expressed confidence Monday the bid would be approved. The two staged a press conference on the sidewalk outside baseball's Park Avenue offices.

"I am hopeful that we can get this thing done," Magowan said. "I believe $95-million is a fair offer. I believe we have a credible group, an almost entirely local group.

"If baseball doesn't let local, credible groups that make fair, credible offers keep their teams, then that's a decision that the powers that be in baseball have to make. They have to decide how much they feel it is in baseball's overall interest to keep a team in San Francisco."

Baseball officials are in an interesting and somewhat sticky position in handling the Giants situation.

The Tampa Bay deal made with Giants owner Bob Lurie on Aug. 6 is exclusive and prohibits him from considering other offers. But White, on Sept. 9, said he would accept a "competitive" San Francisco offer and present it to the owners.

Review of the Tampa Bay group has been under way for months. Now a review by the Ownership Committee and the Executive Council will commence on the San Francisco bid, with a vote by the full ownership anticipated within three weeks.

Ultimately, the owners may be asked to compare the two offers.

And two key points are likely to be the price differential and the stadium problem.

Jordan and Magowan talked about how each party is committed to building a new stadium by 1997 through a public-private partnership and how the partners know they need it to be successful. But they could not guarantee to White that it will be done.

"Nobody can guarantee to any group of owners that there will be a stadium at such and such a time or such and such a place," Magowan said. "No one can make that guarantee because it will probably be up to the people (of San Francisco) to express their opinion (through a vote). Can you guarantee who will win some election? No one can guarantee it. All we're saying is that we would make the best case."

Magowan said the stadium issue could be the key to the deal.

"There is no question that the other owners are going to evaluate carefully their feelings as to whether or not we can realistically build a stadium," Magowan said.

"If they have serious doubts about whether the community of Northern California can build a stadium for the Giants than that is a very good reason to move the team, from their perspective, to Tampa Bay."

What the group and Jordan will try to do, Magowan said, is try to convince the owners that despite four failed public referendums to fund a new stadium, a public-private partnership will be approved.

And if they do, "then I think that would be a very convincing argument to Major League Baseball to let this team stay in San Francisco," Magowan said.

Two National League owners indicated Monday night that the ensuing debate could be pointed .

Pittsburgh Pirates chairman Douglas Danforth said he felt a new stadium was desirable. "But I don't think it's a requirement," Danforth said.

Giles, however, said it was a necessity. "The only way I would approve any sale of the San Francisco club is with a guarantee of a new stadium," Giles said. "And if they didn't produce the stadium, then the league could buy the club and sell it to whoever they want.

"It's never going to work in Candlestick Park, and you can quote me on that."

The $20-million price difference is sure to be another talking point among the owners.

Magowan said his group was given no assurances that $95-million would be enough to save the team. The $20-million difference in the price was based on what his group felt the Giants were worth in San Francisco and a premium the team would carry in St. Petersburg, where attendance and revenues will be greater.

"We looked at what we think baseball franchises are worth," Magowan said. "We looked at the expansion franchise fee (also $95-million). We looked at the transactions recently completed in three different markets (Seattle, Detroit and Houston). We looked at the Giants' financial situation, their losses. We looked at the situation we have at Candlestick Park, the attendance which I think was 23rd out of 26 teams.

"All of these things enter into the value of what that baseball team is worth in San Francisco. It may be worth more somewhere else. I'm not saying it isn't worth more in Tampa (Bay)."

Jordan said that compared to the Tampa Bay bid, the San Francisco offer is "a competitive one and a solid one."

While the owners would be asked to force one of their own to accept $20-million less, Magowan said his partners hoped the owners would recognize San Francisco's emotional attachment to the team and not make a decision based solely on the bottom line.

"A baseball team really affects the community in a way that is really more than dollars and cents,' Magowan said. "It's not like selling any corporate asset and somebody offers more than someone else so let's just sell it to the highest bidder. Baseball isn't just a business."

Baseball's procedure for handling the situation is unclear. This is believed to be the first time there were competing bids on the table in two different cities for an existing team. And it also believed to be the first case where an owner could be asked to take significantly less money to keep a team in its town.

Since he signed the exclusive deal with Tampa Bay, Lurie has had little role in the process and is just waiting for baseball to make a decision. His aides have said he would follow whatever orders baseball gives him.

"I don't know what to make of it," Lurie said of San Francisco's offer. "I heard they made that offer and that's all I know."

But Danforth said Monday night that Lurie would have some input into the decision-making process, at least making a recommendation to the Ownership Committee or even making the decision himself.

Magowan said his group had done all it could do, had bid as much as it could and would now wait for baseball to make a decision. That puts them in about the same position as the Tampa Bay group led by Vince Naimoli, who is in Japan on business and was unavailable for comment Monday.

"We're not trying to come in here and negotiate left, right and center," Magowan said. "We took our best shot at this. Baseball will have to decide if our best shot is a credible offer or not."

_ Staff writers John Romano and Thomas C. Tobin contributed to this report.

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