BY BART HUBBUCH,
Beacon Journal staff writer
March 26, 1996
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.: Can you say "Browns general manager Bernie Kosar"?
Not only is the Cleveland icon looking to own a piece of the next Browns, but he also wants a prominent role in operating the team.
"I've never really lent my name to something that I haven't fully committed myself to or controlled," Kosar said yesterday while watching the Indians' exhibition game here against the Orioles.
"I've always prided myself on doing things the right way, not just superficially throwing my name or my likeness out there. I would want to contribute more than just my name and or my face on a billboard to sell tickets."
Referring specifically to speculation about a personnel or coaching role in Cleveland, Kosar said:
"People have joked about me being a player-coach or player-personnel director with the Browns. I probably won't be playing three or four years from now, but the rest of it, well, we'll see. I've always enjoyed the player-personnel aspect of it."
Kosar, a free-agent quarterback who is likely to re-sign with the Miami Dolphins, found it difficult to be much more specific about the future Browns or his prospects with them.
That's because there is virtually nothing definite about the team, other than that the NFL is obligated to put an expansion or existing club in Cleveland by 1999 and the city is obligated to build that club a new stadium in which to play.
The deal to replace Art Modell's franchise was completed only on March 11, but Kosar has had his eye on owning part of the new Browns almost since the day Modell announced his move to Baltimore five months ago.
"I've definitely been exploring, trying to be a part of getting the next team," Kosar said.
Kosar reportedly is aligning himself with Cleveland financiers Bob Gries and Alfred Lerner, both of whom are likely to be first in line for majority ownership of the Browns if the NFL awards the city an expansion team.
Gries is a former part owner of the Browns, and Lerner -- who negotiated much of Modell's Baltimore deal -- is still a minority owner of that team.
When asked about his connection to both men, Kosar was diplomatic.
"Bob's a really smart man, and I have a lot of respect for him. As for Mr. Lerner, I've known him for quite a few years, too. He's obviously a very brilliant man."
And while he's not in the same financial league as Gries or Lerner, both of whom are near-billionaires, Kosar said he would have no problem coming up with the millions needed for an ownership share of the future Browns.
"From an ownership standpoint, knowing the people that I know in the Cleveland area, money isn't going to be a problem," he said.
Part of it also could come from the contract Kosar expects to sign with the Dolphins and new Coach Jimmy Johnson as backup to quarterback Dan Marino.
And while the 32-year-old Kosar has two or three interviews scheduled with other teams, he will not leave Miami except for a starting job.
"When you have kids and you're married, you've really got to start asking yourself if you want to keep bouncing around," said Kosar, who is building a second home in South Florida. "That's probably why I'll end up back in Miami."
Not for long, though. Not with the new Browns awaiting him -- or so Kosar hopes.
"I'm very serious about this. I want to be part of bringing football back to Cleveland."and . . . .
BY ED MEYER,
Beacon Journal staff writer
June 14, 1996
Bernie Kosar is serious about becoming the next owner of the Cleveland Browns.
Kosar said that if he and his financial backers are able to acquire the rights to the new franchise from the NFL -- no small task -- the 1997 season would be his last as a player. After that, Kosar said, he would devote his time to setting up an organization so that the Browns would be wellprepared for their re-entry into the league in 1999, as guaranteed by the NFL.
Looking out at the sellout crowd from a corner seat in a loge at Jacobs Field for the Indians game on Wednesday night, Kosar was in a confident and reflective mood.
"A lot of good people here saw the Browns play for a long time in this city," he said. "They deserve to see things done the right way the next time we have a team here. I think I can get it right."
The former Browns quarterback, who recently signed a one-year contract extension with the Miami Dolphins for $400,000 plus incentives, returned to his hometown of Boardman this week for his annual golf tournament, the Nestle/Bernie Kosar Charity Classic, at Tanglewood Country Club tomorrow.
Kosar, 32, said he has been in and out of New York at least five times in the last two months, meeting with NFL officials to discuss the long and arduous process of acquiring rights to the Browns.
Greg Aiello, chief spokesman for the NFL, confirmed yesterday that the NFL is seriously interested in Kosar's discussions with and presentations to league officials.
"He has had several meetings expressing his interest in an ownership position with the Browns," Aiello said. "It's way too early in the process to say that he or anyone else is the favorite, but when we get to the point where we start considering ownership groups, he would be seriously considered."
Aiello said Kosar has met with NFL President Neil Austrian and with Joe Ellis, the league's director of club relations and stadium management. Ellis has worked directly with Cleveland to get a new stadium off the drawing board.
The first step in acquiring rights to an NFL franchise is a formal application to league headquarters in New York. That step for Kosar and his group is a long way off.
"We have not set those parameters for Cleveland yet, and it's not certain at this point when we will," Aiello said.
Money is not going to be one of Kosar's problems.
Kosar said he has assembled four and maybe five groups of serious financial backers.
"We figure it's going to take about $300 million," Kosar said. "We'll need at least $200 million to actually buy the team and another $100 million for start-up costs."
The price for the last two expansion teams -- Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers -- was $140 million each.
Kosar would not name his backers, but former Browns minority owner Bob Gries is not among them, sources said.
"Too many things can happen between now and the time the NFL actually moves on this," Kosar said. "But I don't think money will be one of our problems. In fact, I know it won't."
Kosar said he thinks the process of acquiring the rights to the Browns will start heating up when construction begins on the stadium. Demolition of the 65-year-old Cleveland Stadium is to begin in November. Construction of the new stadium on the same site on the Lake Erie shore is expected to begin in July 1997.
Tomorrow at Tanglewood, Kosar said, he probably will make a public announcement about his interest in owning and operating the next Browns team.
Those who are close to him say that it is not simply a public-relations ploy.
Beth Forward, Kosar's sister and a key player in running the burgeoning family business, said: "He's dead serious about this, and I think the NFL is dead serious about him. Bernie wouldn't pursue something this strongly if he didn't think he had a chance at it."
Kosar's best chance to become the next owner of the Browns is if the NFL decides to put an expansion team in Cleveland. Aiello said again it's far too early to discuss anything related to league expansion plans.
Kosar said that if a team tries to move to Cleveland and gains formal approval, also a difficult task, he would have a chance to run the team in that scenario, too.
It is no secret within NFL circles that Cleveland financier Alfred Lerner, who helped Art Modell's move of the old Browns to Baltimore, is interested in buying a team and moving it here.
Kosar joined the Browns in 1985 by orchestrating the workings of a special supplemental draft. He said it was his lifelong dream to play in the NFL for the Browns. Kosar has friendly ties to Lerner.
"I knew who he was and what he did, and how well he did it, when a lot of people in the organization didn't know him from Adam," Kosar said.
"He's always kept a low profile, but he's the Michael Jordan of businessmen. And I think we could work something out if it got to that point."
However, Kosar said his first preference is to acquire the rights to an expansion team.