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Banks agree to mall developer's financing plan

New financing for troubled mall developer DeBartolo Corp. includes terms allowing the DeBartolo family to keep control of the San Francisco 49ers professional football team, the company said Tuesday.

Four banks signed agreements last month with the DeBartolo Corp. for $300-million in loans. The agreements defer principal payments on $4-billion in debt for five years.

The company was forced to seek renegotiation of the payment terms last year when a declining real estate market and overbuilding put it into financial trouble.

The cash-strapped DeBartolos had suggested during the negotiations that they might be willing to sell a portion of the 49ers. But Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. told the Wall Street Journal: "The 49ers are not for sale."

DeBartolo and his son, Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., who has been most closely associated with the family's ownership of the team, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Marie Cartwright, a spokeswoman for DeBartolo Corp., confirmed the details of the financing arrangement, but said the corporation would not comment further.

Ernest T. Elsner, an analyst with Duff & Phelps Inc. in Chicago, said the financing appeared to be a straightforward mortgage: The DeBartolo Corp. received financing in return for collateral on its properties.

With the exception of the 49ers _ covered by an NFL ban on use of a team for collateral _ the DeBartolos gave the unsecured lenders extra collateral on virtually all their properties.

In addition, the DeBartolo Corp. has sold some assets, including the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League, one of its corporate

jets, three malls and two office buildings.

(Earlier this year, DeBartolo sold University Square Mall in Tampa to an investment trust managed by Heitman Retail Properties Inc. of Chicago.)

Fred D'Amico, who works in commercial real estate in the Youngstown area, said DeBartolo's need for more financing reflected a slumping real estate market and the overall economy.

"People don't have the discretionary income. That's what hurts retailers," he said.

There was no immediate comment from the lending banks.

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.