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Officials discuss process of sale

Baseball officials have not yet determined if the San Francisco offer for the Giants is "competitive" with Tampa Bay's bid, National League President Bill White said Wednesday.

"The San Francisco bid is a bid," White said before the start of Game 7 of the National League playoffs.

Whether it is competitive, White said, "that's what the Executive Council will decide."

When White announced Sept. 9 he would allow a San Francisco group to make a counteroffer to the $115-million Tampa Bay bid, he set a nebulous standard, saying only it had to be "competitive." Baseball has given mixed signals about what that means _ whether it must include a guarantee of a new stadium and whether it must match the Tampa Bay offer dollar for dollar.

The Executive Council, an 11-member body running baseball in lieu of a commissioner, took a step toward making that determination Wednesday during a telephone meeting.

"We had an extremely productive conference call," White said of the talks, which lasted more than an hour. "We discussed procedure. We wanted to refine the process, find out exactly where to go and how to proceed.

"This is an extremely delicate situation. The people in San Francisco want to keep the team there. The people in Florida have been extremely patient. We want to be fair to everyone. We discussed a lot about the San Francisco bid. We also discussed the Tampa-St. Petersburg bid."

White said there was no date set to bring baseball owners together for a meeting to decide the Giants situation. Tampa Bay group member J. Rex Farrior said Tuesday he expected that meeting to be set today.

White would reveal no details of the procedure outlined Wednesday. He said the Executive Council would make the final recommendation on the bids.

"I have a lot of material I have to go through; I'm taking some home with me tonight to read," Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig told the Associated Press on Wednesday. Selig is chairman of the Executive Council.

Asked about reports that the San Francisco group sought to keep the $12.3-million expansion fee, thus making their deal $32.3-million less than Tampa Bay's, White said, "You'll have to ask (San Francisco lead investor Peter) Magowan about that."

Larry Baer, a CBS executive helping broker the San Francisco deal, called reports about the expansion fee "inaccurate." But there were indications the group floated the idea of keeping the expansion fee for itself, then backed off after getting a cool reception.

Under an agreement to sell the team to a Tampa Bay investment group, Giants owner Bob Lurie would keep the expansion money.

The San Francisco Examiner reported Wednesday the San Francisco investors are putting up $50-million. The group would borrow an additional $35-million and then ask Lurie for a $10-million loan, bringing the total to $95-million, the newspaper said.

Lurie has agreed to loan $10-million to the Tampa Bay group over four years, but it is unclear whether he would do the same for the San Francisco group. Because of an exclusive agreement with Tampa Bay, he is unable to have contact with the San Francisco investors.

The Examiner quoted a source close to the negotiations as saying the offer was simply "an opening volley substantial enough that the hope is baseball either votes Tampa Bay down or in some way cools out the Tampa litigation threat enough for Bob Lurie to talk to the locals."

Also Wednesday:

There were indications a representative of baseball's Ownership Committee would meet with Tampa Bay group leader Vincent Naimoli this weekend. The meeting is considered a formality and the final step in the Ownership Committee officially approving the Tampa Bay group.

"I think it's really just the last piece of face-to-face (contact) with that committee" before a decision is made, said St. Petersburg Assistant City Manager Rick Dodge.

Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley told the Los Angeles Times the San Francisco offer is the first step in a negotiating process to keep the team.

"As I said in my statement, I'm encouraged. Now there's an offer on the table. Now the negotiations can begin," O'Malley said.

The influential owner also indicated that proof of a replacement for Candlestick Park is not a necessity to approve the San Francisco group.

"There is great concern throughout baseball about Candlestick Park. But the first step is the sale of the team," O'Malley said.

"The stadium is a concern, but I'm very impressed with the quality of the people and the fact that they all come from the community. If a stadium is feasible, I think this group can facilitate it."

_ Staff writer Thomas C. Tobin contributed to this report.