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Robbies make tentative deal to sell Dolphins

The Robbie family wants to sell the Miami Dolphins and their half of Joe Robbie Stadium to a pair of Palm Beach investors so the Robbies can pay off nearly $50-million in estate taxes.

Three Robbie family members who control the team said the new owners would keep the team playing at Joe Robbie Stadium.

"The transactions contemplated will ensure that the Dolphins will continue to play at Joe Robbie Stadium under an ownership and management structure that will maintain the Dolphins' status as one of the NFL's flagship franchises," Tim, Janet and Dan Robbie said Tuesday in a statement.

The new owners would not remove Don Shula as coach, the Miami Herald reported.

The Robbies have agreed to sell the team to real-estate mogul Bruce Frey and millionaire investor Nelson Peltz for $140-million to $157-million, although the final amount is under negotiation. The Robbies officially would give no price.

"Our goal, should we ultimately strike a deal with the Robbies, is to continue to utilize the expertise of the personnel involved in the operations of the team and the stadium in order to ensure the continued success" of the team, Peltz said Tuesday.

The Robbies' estate taxes are estimated to be about $47-million. The family has said it would sell at least a portion of the team to raise money.

Blockbuster Entertainment Corp. owner H. Wayne Huizenga could foil the investors' plans by matching their offer. Huizenga, who owns 15 percent of the team and the other half of Joe Robbie Stadium, has the right of first refusal on the deal, meaning he has the right to match any offer to buy the Dolphins.

As part of their deal with Huizenga, the Robbies can arrange to sell 100 percent of the team. In that case, Huizenga would have to sell his stake if he doesn't exercise his option to match the offer.

Huizenga owns the Florida Marlins and the Florida Panthers.

Though the NFL prohibits its owners from owning more than one sports franchise, league officials seem willing to change the rule if Huizenga wants to buy the Dolphins.

Huizenga didn't want to comment on the deal before talking to the Robbies. But Miami television station WTVJ reported that Huizenga had entered into an agreement with the Peltz group that would give him control of the stadium while giving the Peltz group control of the Dolphins.

Frey, 52, was a key player in the "Chicago Group" that earlier tried to buy the Dolphins. Frey made his fortune largely by converting apartments to condominiums and owns BJF-Thornton, a company in Glencoe, Ill., a Chicago suburb. Frey lives half the year at his Palm Beach residence.

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka, who was part of Frey's original group to purchase the Dolphins, reportedly is not part of the latest effort.


Bucs: The agent for unsigned offensive tackle Paul Gruber said some teams called Tuesday to inquire about the sixth-year veteran, who began a 30-day period as a restricted free agent. "The first line of business for Paul is to have some time to think things over," said Ralph Cindrich, who declined to name the teams. "Paul is still smarting from the way this matter was handled Monday. If there's a response we need to make to an offer, we'll make it." Gruber can elicit offer sheets from other teams until July 15. Tampa Bay has the option of matching any offer, or receiving two first-round picks in compensation.

Chargers: Defensive end Leslie O'Neal, the team's franchise player, has been given a chance to solicit offers from other teams. San Diego, however, retains the right of first refusal. The club made an offer to running back Ronnie Harmon, a transition player. The Chargers retain the right to match any offer.

Cardinals: The club made an offer to offensive tackle Luis Sharpe, a transition player.

Falcons: Cornerback Bobby Butler retired after 12 seasons. Butler, a first-round pick from Florida State in 1981, played in 170 regular-season games, third most in team history.

_ Times staff writer Don Banks contributed to this report.