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saintswhodi 11-11-2005 08:25 AM

Bradshaw getting some help
Ex-QB mounts drive to buy Saints
Bradshaw fired up despite long odds
Friday, November 11, 2005
By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer
National Football League legend and Louisiana native Terry Bradshaw said Thursday he's serious about buying the New Orleans Saints and said he has interested in-state investors with enough money to make it happen.

Bradshaw, an analyst for Fox Sports who starred at Louisiana Tech before winning four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, said his motivation in putting together a deal is purely to keep the team in Louisiana. While Bradshaw declined to name his primary investor, Steve Davison, the son of Ruston trucking mogul James Davison, said his father is interested in buying the team if that's what it takes to keep it in the state.

James Davison, 67, controls Davison Transport, one of the largest trucking businesses in the nation, and an empire that includes a petroleum company, transport warehouses and Squire Creek Country Club and Golf Course.

James Davison took over the family business from his father and built it into one of the largest trucking companies in the nation. Also a Louisiana Tech graduate, he is the school's biggest donor and a sports enthusiast.

Steve Davison, 37, who oversees the Squire Creek operations, said his family would be interested in buying the Saints "under the right circumstances."

"Our chief interest is seeing the Saints remain in Louisiana," he said. "If there was an ownership group that was needed to make that happen, we would certainly look into being a part of it."

Bradshaw, an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback, said he knows the deal is a long shot simply because current owner Tom Benson has said he isn't interested in selling the club.

The Saints did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. The NFL declined comment.

"I've got people that are willing to invest if Mr. Benson is willing to sell," Bradshaw said. "I met with two of the investors (Wednesday) in Shreveport and I asked them, 'Can we pull the strings on this? Can we get it done?' And they said, 'Yeah. The money is no problem.' "

Standing pat

Benson, 78, bought the Saints in 1985 for $70 million. In May, Benson said he's received dozens of offers to buy the team, including a bid of more than $1 billion by a Los Angeles-area investor. The most recent NFL team to be sold, the Minnesota Vikings, went for $600 million in July. The latest Forbes magazine rankings of NFL franchises placed the Saints' worth at $715 million. The magazine had valued the Vikings at $658 million.

"I'm sure there are a lot of offers out there from people that want to buy clubs these days," Benson said at the time. "I'm not going to sell the club."

Benson reiterated those intentions in an advertisement in The Times-Picayune two weeks ago. "It is my intention and goal that my grandchildren will carry on my legacy of owing the New Orleans Saints," he said in the open letter to Saints fans.

Benson's granddaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc, is an executive with the club and became a partial owner last year. Benson's grandson, Ryan LeBlanc, is on the board of directors.

Bradshaw said he and his partners have not talked to Benson or to NFL officials.

"I don't know if Mr. Benson is willing to sell or wants to sell," Bradshaw said. "Word I'm getting is that he does not want to sell, that he wants to give the team to his granddaughter. But I do have people that can get the money."

Bradshaw, a Shreveport native, said he grew up idolizing the Saints and does not want to see the team leave the state, especially when its citizens are vulnerable in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"I came out publicly because I just wanted the state of Louisiana to hear something positive about their Saints," Bradshaw said. "As a homegrown guy, I would do everything that I could to make sure that they do not lose their football team. . . . I want to keep everybody honest with the citizens of the state of Louisiana, primarily the city of New Orleans. It's not their fault that Katrina came in and did all the devastation it did."

Both Bradshaw and Steve Davison, who attended Tulane University Law School during the early 1990s and lived in Uptown, said they have great affection for New Orleans and have been personally affected by Katrina's impact on the city.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco recently named James Davison to the 23-member board of directors for the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

"Terry feels the same way about it that we do," Steve Davison said. "We're Louisiana folks. We're passionate about our state, and we're passionate about football, too. We're interested in seeing New Orleans rebound from this thing. Losing the Saints would be a huge loss toward the recovery of our state."

Working on a bid

Bradshaw said the group is still in the planning process and said his role is to be a "traffic cop" organizing the potential deal rather than an investor. The investment group plans to meet soon to formulate a bid. At some point, he plans to talk or meet with Benson or his representatives.

"I do not know that he wants to sell," Bradshaw said. "I don't know how mad he is. I don't know how angry he is. I don't know his financial position with the football team.

"I hope Mr. Benson doesn't do anything and I hope that the Saints sign a new deal and extend the lease for 20 years and the Dome is fixed up. But I'm not certain that's going to happen."

In addition to his duties as host of Fox NFL Sunday, Bradshaw breeds and raises halter horses. He's in the process of moving his ranch from Texas to a 704-acre spread in southern Oklahoma.

Fellow Louisiana Tech standout Karl Malone recently gave him a $70,000 bulldozer as a gift to help with the construction on his new property.

A private man who prefers seclusion when he's away from the TV set, Bradshaw said he felt called to action when he read about the Saints' possible relocation to San Antonio or Los Angeles.

"I just feel as though someone has to defend the state," he said. "I'm a nobody, other than being a former athlete. I'm just going to be a voice, a watchdog. The NFL is a tremendous PR machine. I want to keep them honest with us. We're talking about an entity that, combined with the Sugar Bowl and all the other things at the Superdome, brings a tremendous amount of revenue into our state. And I don't want to see that leave us because we were misled.

"I just want to make sure -- dead sure -- that my state doesn't get screwed here," he said.

dberce1 11-11-2005 09:33 AM

We love you Terry. :crowd:

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