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Naimoli, owners gathering in Atlanta

The Tampa businessman who wants to buy the San Francisco Giants and move them here is expected to rub shoulders Saturday with many of the people who could soon be his peers.

Vincent Naimoli will be in Atlanta, where many baseball owners and executives are gathering this weekend for the World Series.

He's going "so that some of the owners who haven't met him have a chance to meet him," said Florida Progress chairman Jack Critchfield, leader of Tampa Bay's search for a baseball team.

Naimoli is expected to travel home today from a business trip to Japan that was unrelated to the Giants purchase offer. He could not be reached for comment.

Critchfield said "all the paper work is in" on the Naimoli group's $115-million bid. The group is competing with a San Francisco investor group that says it is willing to offer $95-million for the team.

Saturday's meeting is expected to be a formality before baseball's Ownership Committee qualifies the Tampa Bay bid to be officially considered by baseball's Executive Council and then by all 28 of baseball's owners.

The next step, according to Critchfield: "Somebody has to schedule a meeting where the owners can vote" on the move. Baseball officials are said to be considering an Oct. 26 meeting date _ the day after the scheduled end of the World Series _ but key owners weren't talking much.

"What we're doing is designed to move the process along," said Chicago Cubs chairman Stanton Cook, a member of the Ownership Committee.

Earlier this week, the San Francisco offer was thought to be less than $95-million because it would have required Giants owner Bob Lurie to surrender $12.3-million in fees charged to the National League's two new expansion teams.

Lurie would keep the expansion money under the preliminary contract he signed Aug. 6 with Naimoli, a factor that increased the gap between the two offers to $32.3-million.

But after news reports of the plan, the San Francisco group "backed off" on keeping the $12.3-million because it apparently had become a "bone of contention," the San Francisco Examiner reported Thursday. According to another report, Lurie reacted angrily to the proposal.

So the difference between the two offers is back to $20-million, but that doesn't make Tampa Bay's case any less compelling, said St. Petersburg Assistant City Manager Rick Dodge, who is working with Critchfield.

"Any comparison of the proposed San Francisco offer against the contractual agreement in place between our ownership group in Tampa Bay should make a very easy decision for baseball _ on sales price, on stadium facility, on community and season-ticket support and on political unity," Dodge said.

He added: "In many of these categories, the difference is even greater than the $20-million difference in sales price."

Walter Shorenstein, a leader of the San Francisco group, said this week the Naimoli group's price contains "an additional value" created when baseball allowed Lurie to consider selling to other markets.

"We didn't think that's fair," Shorenstein said. "Now if baseball, in their minds, thinks that (Lurie) should get an enhanced value, I think they should assess themselves, not put the burden on us."

_ Staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.