The Akron Beacon Journal from Akron, Ohio on January 18, 1983 · Page 10
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The Akron Beacon Journal from Akron, Ohio · Page 10

Akron, Ohio
Issue Date:
Tuesday, January 18, 1983
Page 10
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A 1 0 Am:v. t...lVr. m, MODELLRich, powerful and under fire Browns have history of staff problems By Teter 1'hipps Beacon Journal jtatf writer Arthur Model fired coach Paul - Brown 20 months after buying the Cleveland franchise, but Brown's coaches and players did ., not all retire until the early '70s. r It was only then that the Browns became entirely Modell's. (l And it was then that the team that had won 75 percent of its . games and played in 10 straight championship games from 1946 to 1955 began to lose. Since 1970, the once-mighty Browns have won just one more game than they have lost. It has been even worse in the i , last 10 years, with the team win-,m ning only 47 percent of the time. (Even the often-maligned Cleve-.. land Indians have won a higher u percentage of games since 1973. ) u But mediocrity has not been . the only thread of the '70s and '80s. The team also has gone ,, through one management change - after another. The Browns have had three . other head coaches and four different men running the college draft since Blanton Collier, a former Paul Brown assistant, re-i, tired in 1970. On the business side, Modell ' fired Browns vice president and treasurer Robert Brodhead in " 1973, and personnel director Bob Nussbaumer in 1977. Personnel -chief Peter Hadhazy quit in 1981. Only cautious men seem to ' last. "Art has a history of hiring a staff of yes men," Brodhead said in a recent interview. "Over the years, Art has had a lot of weak people." Brodhead, who blames himself in large part for his dismissal, said he refused to stop pushing for a suburban stadium after Modell had rejected the idea. Modell acknowledged his staff problem in part in 1976, when he hired Hadhazy from New England. "I'm afraid the organization has become somewhat inbred," Modell said at the time. "I've got news for you," Hadhazy said recently. "They still are." Hadhazy served as team general manager for five years, running the draft and making the team's trades. In 1981, Modell sent out a memo turning over much of Hadhazy's job to Tommy Prothro, former San Diego Chargers head coach and a championship bridge player. "He deceived me," Hadhazy said of Modell. "He sent that memo out behind my back." Hadhazy, now a top official with the rival U. S. Football League, said part of his problem might have been that he got too much credit in the newspapers for the Browns' revival in 1979 and 1980. ' Modell, Hadhazy said, never liked anyone else getting credit in the newspapers. "He wanted to be the Browns and he wanted his name to be associated with the Browns and his name only," Hadhazy said. However, while Modell might run the front office with an iron hand, he tends to be much more paternal with his players. He called them his "kids," occasionally giving out personal loans and fatherly advice. And a number of the players call him "Mr. Art." During the players strike, a pained Modell said: "I have not spoken to any of my players, which hurts me because I feel very close to some of those kids who are having personal problems, and others for whom I have a strong, deep affection." MODELL, who never had any children of his own, adopted the players. But that too proved painful. Right after taking control of the Browns, a death that echoed an earlier tragedy visited Modell's football family. In his first big player deal, Modell traded star running back Bobby Mitchell to win the rights to draft Syracuse running back Ernie Davis. In Modell's dream backfield, Davis would team with Jim Brown to run over opponents. Davis never played for the Browns. In early 1962, Modell learned that his star rookie had leukemia. He lived for only about a year after signing with the Browns. Davis died on May 18, 1963 24 years to the day after Modell's E 1 Paul Brown Blanton Collier Nick Skorich Forrest Gregg Sam Rutigliano 100 I ; " 80 H r I 604 rjr H CMD r H 1 W TW Q1 II II II ' 1971-1974 180-13 iomso4 1946-1962 1963-1970 father had died in a Texas hospital. THE ACCOUNTS of Modell's reaction to Davis' illness vary widely, as do the views of Modell himself. Fullback Jim Brown, in his book Off My Chest, said Modell's only concern "was to make Ernie's last months as pleasant as possible," even though Modell had hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in Davis. Modell, Jimmy Brown recalled, broke down and cried at the news of Davis death. He chartered a plane from Cleveland to Elmira, N. Y., for Davis' funeral. For years, a photograph of Davis hung on Modell's office wall at Cleveland Stadium. "When I need a little extra lift, I think of him," Brown says Modell once told him. PAUL BROWN told a much different story in his book, PB: The Paul Brown Story. Coach Brown said Modell never gave up on the idea that Davis might play. Davis' cancer went into remission early in the 1962 season, a difficult one for the Browns. Paul Brown wrote: "Finally, Modell came to me one day and said, 'Put him in a game and let him play. We have a big investment in him, and I'd like a chance to get some back. "'It doesn't matter how long Beacon JournalArt Krummet he plays; just let him run back a kick, let him do anything, just so we can get a story in the paper saying he's going to play and the fans will come to see him. If he has to go, why not let him have a little fun?' " An outraged Modell turned the book over to his close friend, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle for review. Rozelle eventually fined Brown $10,000 for the remarks against his fellow executive. "That bothered me more than anything else," Modell said. "I loved that kid and tried to keep him alive." Brown sent Rozelle a check, but never has recanted the passage. Some of Modell's ventures have fallen on hard times By Peter Phipps Beacon Journal staff writer . Arthur Modell's old factory on Cleveland's West Side is now fenced and nameless. The comnanv's namp ramo I down and a "For Sale" sign went up soon after Modell closed the troubled stamping plant last June. Commuters speed past the shuttered American Metal Forming Co. factory on Berea Road without a clue that the dreary brick building once housed a business owned by Modell. Nor is there a hint that the 30-year-old company may have played a role in one of the most controversial chapters in the history of the Cleveland Browns. The irony of the "Go Browns" billboard next door to the factory escapes all but a very few pas-sersby. In fact, only a select group of employees and friends knew the trouble the company was in last March, when Modell sold his Stadium Corp. to the Browns for $6 million. Modell himself received $4.8 million of that. But James Weist, general manager of the American Metal Forming Co., had seen the books. He knew what Modell faced. He could guess where a chunk of the $4.8 million might be going. "We were losing a lot of money," Weist said of the company's last months. Many businessmen would have run to bankruptcy court to cut their losses. Not Modell. He decided to close the company the expensive way by paying his bills. His father went bankrupt in 1929, a date that Modell recalls without hesitation. "I've never had a bankruptcy in my life and I wasn't going to start now," Modell said. "It was a matter of whether I wanted to stay in it any more. I just folded, liquidated. We paid everyone off." Weist said the closing cost Modell "a tremendous amount of money," although he declined to reveal a figure. In 1978, before having to pay closing costs, Modell had more than $300,000 invested in the company. But that was just one of Modell's financial problems. LAST YEAR, while Modell and two partners wrestled with the growing losses at the stamping company, they also had to decide what to do with WJW radio. The station had been losing money every year since 1977, when the three put down about $900,000 to buy the station for just over $2.5 million. There were reports Modell wanted to sell the station. Instead, in late March, Modell and his partners reorganized WJW, agreeing to buy out Browns broadcaster Gib Shanley and the station manager, who were part owners. In May, one month before closing the American Metal Forming Co., Modell and his partners paid Shanley and station manager Richard Bremkamp Jr. $199,000. IJI-!M." 1 i - i Arthur Modell 7't?e never had a bankruptcy in my life and I wasn't going to start now. ' The station adopted a news-talk format last summer and Modell now predicts the station will turn a profit this year. MODELL'S other ventures, some successful, some not, include: The Premier Electric Co., the Cleveland vacuum cleaner manufacturer rescued by Modell and a group of investors in 1972 and then closed in 1979. (Modell lost more than $1 million, according to the leading investor.) The Whitney Land Co., a Strongsville residential and commercial development company owned by Modell that has been frustrated by high interest rates and the residential housing slump. The Bede Aviation Corp., which turned a profit in 1978, but only after Modell and two partners threatened to sue the Grumman Corp. Stouffer's Inn on the Square, a Modell development project that has been turned over to an out-of-state group with no cash profits. Oil investments with his good friend, Denver millionaire Marvin Davis. THE TREMENDOUS financial success of the Browns has lifted Modell's net worth despite his other troubles. In 22 years, his $250,000 investment in the Browns has grown to be worth at least $16 million. (That is based on Modell's estimate that an NFL franchise is worth $30 million. The NFL Players' Association placed the value at $40 million.) In addition, the Browns and Modell's Stadium Corp. have paid Modell more than $12 million in special dividends in 18 years. That money came on top of his six-figure salary and bonus. But in the late '70s, during two years when Modell's financial statements are available, Modell's net worth aside from his Browns' stock fell by $1 million. Yet his overall net worth increased in those years because of the growth in value of his Browns' stock. ABOUT SIX years ago, Modell said his Browns' stock made up all but $3.6 million of his $12.7 million net worth. One year later, Modell said his outside holdings had slipped to $2.5 million, although his total net worth had grown to $14 million. Those figures date from a time right after Modell bought WJW radio but before American Metal Forming and Premier closed. Modell could blame retired banker George Herzog for the more than $1.3 million he reportedly lost in Premier and American Metal Forming. But he won't. "He was my friend and my patron and I loved him dearly," Modell said. "He never bet on a balance sheet, he bet on people." One of those people was Modell. In 1961, Herzog, then head of Cleveland's Union Commerce Bank, lent Modell's group $2.5 million of the $3.9 million it needed to buy the Browns. "THE PRICE that was paid for the Browns was far, far more in excess of anything that had been paid for a pro football team in the past," Modell said. Late in his career, after he had retired from Union Commerce, Herzog had his share of losers. And unfortunately for Modell, he was associated with two of them; Premier Electric in 1972 and then American Metal Forming Co. five years later. "George lost some of his steam in his later years, and it cost BEKUTl We're Looking For 6 People Who Want To Speak Spanish Or French By Easter. . . For Just $28 A Week. Enroll now in our new group programs and you'll be speaking French or Spanish by Easter. You'll learn with the unique Berlitz Method a simple, efficient, step-by-step program. In just 10 weeks you'll be speaking a new language. Call Amar Bougrab Today at BERLITZ 156 South Main St., Akron 762-0991 him," said Peter Van Oosterhout, the former president of a Union Commerce subsidiary and the leading investor in Premier. In 1972, Modell and Herzog led an investment group that bought the idle Premier Electric Co. from General Electric for $5 million. THINGS started well at Premier. After a year, the 60-year-old company was making 2,500 vacuum cleaners a week and turning a profit on $10 million of sales. However, sales fell with the economy in the mid-70s and Modell and the other investors closed the company in December 1979. More than 200 workers lost jobs. Initially, Herzog got into American Metal Forming Co. on his own. Modell said he took over his mentor's interests when Herzog became ill. "It was a favor to George," Modell said. "I stepped into his shoes and took him off all the paper." Only later, Modell said, did he learn that Herzog had signed notes that, toward the end of his life, put "him and his wife in a very serious situation." Strikes hurt the company in 1967, 1971 and 1979. But Herzog did not live to see the company's collapse or the losses run up by Modell. Herzog died in 1977. , iTropicana cool) pure tTrapii .Tropicana .Tropicana 1. Tropicana IpEi mix Tropicana ROW GRAPEFRUIT ow JUICE ORANGE Hwcoafflwi JUICE vrj&jfl hoiwb,gio ICT64R OZ OOUABR) NET 64 R. Of (2 QUARTS) If you think all juices are the same try Tropicana. We think the fresh taste of Tropicana's juices will change your mind. AND HERE'S 400 TO PROVE IT! 20c 201 SME 20 ON A 64-OZ. 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