Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver is refinancing debt, considering taking on a financial partner, and struggling to sell tickets and secure a stadium naming rights deal.
Despite the problems, he wants to make one thing clear: His team is not for sale and is not going anywhere.
"I just wanted to ... clarify that I'm not selling the Jaguars," Weaver said Thursday in response to a newspaper report. "The team is not moving to L.A. I don't know how I can say that any more clearly than that. Everybody wants me to sit here and speculate on the future. I'm not going to speculate on the future.
"At some point, maybe I would sell the team, but not now. Whatever happens in the future, I can assure you one thing: The Jaguars are going to be the Jacksonville Jaguars."
The Philadelphia Daily News reported that Weaver was negotiating to sell the Jaguars to billionaire C. Dean Metropoulos, who might consider moving the team to Los Angeles.
Weaver said the situation has not changed from last year, when he hired a New York investment firm to help him refinance $110 million in debt and look at the possibility of adding investors. He chose not to bring anyone on board then, but hasn't ruled out getting help down the road.
"I'm not going to tell you that I don't have, from time to time, people calling me inquiring if I have an interest in selling a minority interest," said Weaver, who built his fortune from popular shoe chains Shoe Carnival and Nine West. "That's always an option, but if I ever do that, it will be with someone that shares the same commitment and passion to winning football and being a part of the Jacksonville partnership."
Small-market Jacksonville has other problems.
The Jaguars blacked out three home games last season, the first since covering up nearly 10,000 seats two years earlier. The move, designed to lower ticket sales requirements, came after the Jaguars blacked out 12 of 16 home games in 2003 and 2004.
Even after finishing 11-5 last season and winning its first playoff game since 1999, Jacksonville has dealt with more slumping sales this summer.
Making matters worse, Alltel Corp. decided not to renew its naming rights contract with the stadium last year and left the franchise without its most lucrative sponsorship deal.
Weaver believes the NFL will eventually be a strong sell in Jacksonville, after a few generations grow up rooting for the team.
More success should help, too. That's one reason Weaver signed high-priced free-agent receiver Jerry Porter and gave lucrative, long-term contracts to coach Jack Del Rio and quarterback David Garrard.
"That's not the kind of activities you engage in if you're trying to sell a football team," Weaver said. "I just don't know how I can do anything more to reconfirm my commitment to how excited I am about this football team and our chance to be special and compete at the highest level, to bring a championship to Jacksonville."
Metropoulos, the former chairman and chief executive officer of New Jersey-based Pinnacle Foods, also denied the report.
The Daily News reported that discussions between Weaver and Metropoulos were being brokered by Sal Galatioto of the New York sports investment firm Galatioto Sports Partners. The newspaper reported that Metropoulos previously has unsuccessfully tried to buy two other NFL franchises, the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins.
According to the report, Metropoulos was interested in a 100 percent purchase of the Jaguars and that he would keep Weaver on for two years while he learns how to operate an NFL franchise.
The whole thing caught Weaver by surprise.
"I think clearly until there is a solution to the L.A. market, you're going to have all kinds of speculation whether it's the Jaguars or whoever it may be," he said. "But I can emphatically tell you the Jaguars are not one of the clubs lining up to go to L.A."