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Mansion's seller sues ex-owner of 49ers

At issue is whether Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. and his wife reneged on a Tampa real estate deal to buy a home priced at $2.1-million.

After losing his renowned football franchise and suffering a criminal conviction in a bribery scandal, Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. decided to pull up stakes and move his family from San Francisco to Tampa.

His luck has not immediately changed.

Looking for temporary lodging while a new home was built in the gated Avila community, the DeBartolos settled on a five-bedroom, five-bath home priced at $2.1-million. An inspection turned up some surprises, though, and DeBartolo's wife, Cynthia Ruth _ who goes by "Candy" _ backed out of the contract.

The seller, Stanford "Sandy" Solomon, took Mrs. DeBartolo to court, asking a judge to force her to buy the home. The case involving the 7,955-square-foot house at 16406 Brieva De Avila drags on after seven months.

Solomon, a Tampa lawyer, represents David Bekhor, an Israeli medical equipment salesman being scrutinized by a federal grand jury investigating his relationship with county commissioners and an alleged extortion attempt at Tampa General Hospital.

DeBartolo, 53, is the former free-spending owner of the San Francisco 49ers and chief executive officer of Edward J. DeBartolo Corp., which built 51 malls in 16 states, including the University Square Mall in Tampa and the Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg.

A federal grand jury in Louisiana began looking at DeBartolo in 1997. A year later, he pleaded guilty to failing to report a crime _ namely, an extortion attempt in which DeBartolo handed former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards a briefcase containing $400,000. The cash was a payoff for Edwards' help in securing a lucrative riverboat casino license for DeBartolo and a partner, prosecutors said.

In exchange for testifying against Edwards, DeBartolo got off lightly on the felony conviction, with two years' probation and a $250,000 fine.

The NFL fined DeBartolo $1-million and suspended him from the league. In an unrelated matter, he gave up control of the 49ers to his estranged sister last year.

In the Tampa real estate dispute, Candy DeBartolo agreed to buy the Solomon homestead with a June 1999 contract and a $50,000 deposit. She had seen a videotape of the house but made the purchase contingent on a satisfactory inspection.

The Realty-Chek company found water damage around the garage, on the roof and in portions of the home's interior. A DeBartolo Property Management & Investment officials concurred.

Mrs. DeBartolo canceled the contract and asked for her money back.

Solomon said she had no right to back out. Cost of the repairs would be minimal, he said. The builder of the home, Precise Construction, called the problems "inconsequential" and "easily remedied."

When Mrs. DeBartolo stood firm, Solomon sued. Mrs. DeBartolo then filed a counterclaim asking for her $50,000 deposit back.

Mrs. DeBartolo also filed an affidavit suggesting she'd been misled about the condition of the house. The initial disclosure statement received from Solomon said he knew of no leaks or other defects in the roof.

But a second disclosure statement _ one which Mrs. DeBartolo received only after deciding to cancel the contract _ was different. It said there had been roof leaks and there had been repairs to fix the problem. The new answer was initialed by Solomon's wife, Sheila A.B. Solomon.

The Solomons decided to sell the home at 16406 Brieva De Avila after Mrs. Solomon filed a petition for divorce in 1998.

No one would talk to the St. Petersburg Times about the Solomon and DeBartolo court cases, including Sandy Solomon, Sheila Solomon, the two Realtors handling the real estate contract, and Mrs. DeBartolo's attorney, Laurence Goodrich.