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Bucs now belong to Glazer

Malcolm Glazer is officially the new owner of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

And you can take that to the bank.

Glazer closed the highest-priced deal in sports franchise history late Thursday when his $192-million purchase of the Bucs was concluded at NationsBank headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. With the Friday transfer of all assets from the estate of former owner Hugh Culverhouse, the 66-year-old Palm Beach financier ended a five-year quest to become an NFL owner.

The two-day close of the transaction was in keeping with the pace of the entire process. Glazer secured a purchase agreement Jan.

16, was approved by NFL owners in mid-March, and hoped to close in mid-April. A series of delays over the past 2{ months pushed the closing to within two weeks of a July 15 deadline.

"We are thrilled to have the matter come to its fruition," Glazer said in a prepared statement. "As we've been saying, it's a new day in Tampa Bay. This purchase fulfills a longtime dream of mine, and it is the outcome of several months of hard work by my family, Steve Story and many others. As was clearly evident, this was a difficult thing to accomplish, but I never doubted for a moment that this exciting day would arrive."

In addition to the $192-million sale price was a $30,000 extension fee for each day past April 14. The extension fees and closing costs pushed the final bill to nearly $200-million. The high for the sale of a sports franchise had been Jeff Lurie's 1994 purchase of the Philadelphia Eagles for $185-million.

"It was a long, two-day process that was really signed late (Thursday) night, with the funds transferred (Friday morning)," Bucs general manager Rich McKay said. "I don't know if the Glazers knew it'd take as long and be as drawn out as it was, but I think they're very pleased.

"The conclusion of this transaction brings a stability to the franchise that it has lacked for the past 11 months. It was a very complicated transaction because of the money involved, but I'm afraid all future sales are going to be about this complicated."

Glazer has been active in the team's decisions since January, but the closing will increase his and his family's day-to-day roles. Oldest sons Bryan and Joel will assume titles as co-vice presidents, focusing on ticket operations and marketing. Both men will begin working at the team's One Buc Place office by Wednesday.

As for immediate impact, a $1-million preseason marketing blitz _ a push that McKay characterized as "unprecedented by NFL standards" _ will begin within two or three weeks.

"Hopefully fans will detect a change, because we can be focused on football now and not on the sale of this team," McKay said. "That will be nice. We're ready for football season to get going."

The $192-million sale price includes a $175-million base price and a clause that adds $17-million if Tampa Bay replaces 28-year-old Tampa Stadium. The Tampa Sports Authority on June 1 agreed to pursue the building of a $168.1-million stadium but is debating how to finance construction. Glazer has said the team needs an improved facility to help generate revenue to offset the cost of the franchise.

Glazer has pledged to keep the Bucs in Tampa Bay, and his sale contract includes a guarantee to remain for at least the next two seasons. If the team moves after 1996 and before 2005, a $35-million payment will be added to the sale agreement, meaning the eventual bottom-line figure could rise as high as $215-million to $218-million.

Glazer is believed to have borrowed about $130-million to buy the team, and team officials expect to lose about $13-million to $15-million a year _ roughly the size of the loan's debt service _ while the Bucs continue to play in Tampa Stadium.

Malcolm, Bryan and Joel Glazer were present at the closing, along with their attorney Andy Lubrano. The Bucs were represented by lead trustee Steve Story and team counsel Steve Rodenberry. No member of the Culverhouse family attended, and none was available for comment about the end of their family's 20-year ownership of the franchise.

For Story, who spearheaded the sale negotiations, the closing signaled the end of a process that began with Culverhouse's death from lung cancer Aug. 25, intensified when the team went up for sale Nov. 10, and resulted in Glazer's mid-January agreement.

"I would like to lead the Tampa Bay community in thanking Mr. Glazer for his efforts," Story said. "He paid the market price that it took to keep this team in Tampa Bay, and he remains committed to that goal. That was the desired outcome for everybody involved in this transaction."