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Friday, February 22, 2008
Ross agrees to buy 50 percent of Dolphins, stadium

Associated Press

MIAMI -- Wayne Huizenga's passion for the Miami Dolphins remains, but after more than a decade as their sole owner, he says it's time for someone else to become the boss.

Huizenga announced Friday that New York real estate developer Stephen Ross would acquire 50 percent of the franchise, Dolphin Stadium and surrounding developable land.

"We don't need some old guy limping around here trying to run this franchise," Huizenga said. "I've been in this business 18 years now. Pretty soon it'll be 24, 25. It's time for someone else to take over."

The NFL must approve the sale, which Huizenga said would be worth $1.1 billion.

Ross has an opportunity to become managing general partner in the future. Huizenga turned 70 in December, and he said his age and estate planning motivated him to make the deal.

"I will certainly be a part of this team, a partner in this team, until I die," Huizenga said at a news conference. "And after I die, my family will have the opportunity to continue owning a piece. We will be a partner for a long time."

Huizenga, the sole owner since 1994, will remain managing general partner for an indefinite period. His team is coming off a 1-15 season, the worst in franchise history.

I will certainly be a part of this team, a partner in this team, until I die. And after I die, my family will have the opportunity to continue owning a piece. We will be a partner for a long time.

--Wayne Huizenga

"My heart does not want me to do this, but my head tells me it's the right thing to do," he said.

Ross is chairman of Related Companies, an international real estate development company, and he grew up in South Florida as a Dolphins fans. He said he considered buying other NFL teams in the past, but the Dolphins were his preference.

"I think the price I paid shows that," he said. "I'm a fan to start with, and I'll certainly be at the games."

Huizenga said he and Ross will be involved 50-50 in decisions.

"It's kind of like being married," Huizenga said. "No, I take it back. It's not at all like being married."

Negotiations began last April and became public in December. Speculation about a deal faded when Huizenga hired Bill Parcells as executive vice president of football operations and pledged to remain majority owner.

"Right from day one, Bill Parcells knows or knew that we were going to bring in a partner," Huizenga said. "I reminded him of that several times since he's been at the Dolphins. I met with him again this morning. Bill has no problem with it. We both are very excited about Bill being on board, and Bill will continue to report to me."

Ross said he hadn't spoken with Parcells.

"You can't help but respect the track record of Bill Parcells and what he can do for this franchise," Ross said.

Ross, who has a home in Palm Beach, has been involved with sports before. He was a minority partner with the NHL's New York Islanders, and in 1990 he was part of a group interested in bringing baseball to Miami.

Instead, Huizenga became founding owner of the Florida Marlins, then later sold the team. Huizenga also was the founding owner of the NHL's Florida Panthers, then sold that franchise.

Football has always been Huizenga's first love, but the Dolphins haven't been to the AFC championship game since he became sole owner. They've failed to even make the playoffs since 2001 and last season lost their first 13 games. Last month the Dolphins fired Cam Cameron and hired Tony Sparano as their fifth head coach since 2004.

Still, for an investor, the Dolphins have plenty of appeal. Forbes Magazine last year valued the franchise at $942 million, with a revenue stream of about $215 million. The valuation makes the Dolphins the 15th-priciest NFL franchise.

"Having grown up in South Florida, Dolphins football has been a lifetime passion for me," Ross said. "I am energized by this opportunity, and look forward to being able to once again watch the Dolphins win a Super Bowl alongside all the other loyal Dolphin fans."

Ross would also become part-owner of a stadium that ranks among the NFL's best. Huizenga recently committed to spend about $250 million to upgrade the stadium, with the final phase of work to be completed by 2009.

Huizenga bought the Dolphins from the heirs of team founder Joe Robbie for $138 million.

Ross ranked 68th last year on Forbes' list of richest Americans with a net worth of $4.5 billion. Huizenga was 165th at $2.5 billion.