Bisciotti officially takes control of the Ravens

OWINGS MILLS – The era of Steve Bisciotti as principal owner of the Baltimore Ravens began Thursday afternoon as his $600 million purchase of the football team from Art Modell was finalized. <P> Bisciotti, who turns 44 on Saturday, bought the majority remaining interest of the franchise with a $325 million wire transfer after initially purchasing 49 percent of the team from Modell in late 1999 for $325 million.

Modell, 78 and an NFL owner for 43 years, will retain a 1-percent ownership share. He will have an office next to Bisciotti's in the Ravens' new training complex in Owings Mills that's set for completion in October.

Bisciotti is the third-youngest owner in the league, ranking behind Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, 39, and Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner, 42.

"It's a little bit anticlimactic," Bisciotti said last week in an interview at the owners' meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. "I was more excited about the initial deal four years ago. That was a bigger change in my life. I knew what I had set in place, a gradual progression toward control.

"Someone asked me if I was more in awe today and I said, ‘No, I was probably more in awe walking into my first NFL meeting and seeing the likes of Wellington Mara and Jerry Jones.' Now, that's old hat. Taking over for the Modells with all the help they've given me, this transition has had a lot less anticipation because there are no great changes. It's a steady course, and it gives me and the organization a great sense of calm."

The Severna Park graduate was ranked 388th on Forbes' list of richest Americans last year with a reported net worth of $625 million. Bisciotti spent the past four years as a minority owner learning from Modell, a charter member of the NFL old guard who bought the Cleveland Browns for roughly $4 million on March 21, 1961.

Bisciotti structured the closing of the sale to allow Modell to attend the annual owners meetings as a principal owner last week.

"The transition has been seamless," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Art and Steve are very similar in a sense with their passion for the game and their compassion for people. From that standpoint, it's going to feel familiar."

Modell received a standing-ovation tribute from his peers and a proclamation from the NFL to commemorate his contributions to the league, which included: being the only elected president in NFL history; winning an NFL championship in 1964 with the Browns and Super Bowl XXXV with the Ravens; having 28 winning seasons and an all-time mark of 346-304-8; chairing the NFL television committee and contributing to the launch of NFL Films and Monday Night Football; his role in negotiating the initial collective bargaining agreement and helping to broker the NFL-AFL merger.

"Steve Bisciotti is a good man, and I think he's going to be an excellent owner," Art Modell said. "He's got passion and he's got enthusiasm for the game. My legacy will be a successful Bisciotti."

A lifelong fan of the Orioles, Baltimore Colts and Maryland Terrapins who's an avid golfer, Bisciotti founded Aerotek (now known as the Allegis Group) in 1983 and built it into one of the world's leading technical staffing firms. The business reportedly had nearly $2.7 billion in sales in 2002 and $1.2 billion last year.

The Salisbury State graduate and Millersville resident emphasized that little will change about the Ravens' front-office structure. He acknowledged that he's not a football expert and will trust and rely upon his executives and coaches' judgment.

General manager Ozzie Newsome, who's under contract through 2006, will continue to oversee the personnel department. Billick is under contract through 2005. Both signed contract extensions during Bisciotti's four-year apprenticeship under Modell, which has included the Anne Arundel County businessman regularly attending league meetings.

"I'm getting to know Steve better each year, and I like him," Steelers owner Dan Rooney said. "He's a younger man than Art, but he seems to be a firm believer in keeping the best traditions of the NFL alive."

Washington corporate attorney Dick Cass will replace outgoing Ravens president David Modell, Art's son. Cass represented Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in litigation against the NFL and the Jack Kent Cooke estate in the sale of the Redskins to Snyder.

"We think we have a pretty good thing going, a good process and now with Dick and Steve coming in, there's some explaining to do to further educate them that this is kind of how we do things," Billick said. "They will have questions that we haven't had to answer for a while, and that's good for you.

"There's some fresh perspective. It's exciting to work for him in that regard."

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