Cablevision’s Dolan Jets’ high bidder

Exec reportedly put up $620 mil

Charles Dolan, chairman of media and telecommunications giant Cablevision Systems, is the highest bidder for the New York Jets football team, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters Tuesday.

The source indicated that Dolan “is in the process of working out any outstanding issues with the National Football League” and confirmed that Dolan offered the highest bid.

The team was put on the block by the family of deceased owner Leon Hess, in accordance with his wishes. Hess died in May.

$620 mil bid

The New York Post reported that Dolan’s bid was $620 million, although this could not be confirmed.

The NFL, which must approve the sale, declined to comment. Sources said potential snarls include Cablevision’s ownership of three other professional sports franchises: the New York Knicks basketball team, the New York Rangers hockey team and the New York Liberty women’s basketball team.

Cablevision, the nation’s sixth largest cable provider, also owns Madison Square Garden, which houses the Knicks, Rangers and Liberty.

Dolan’s brother Larry bought the Cleveland Indians baseball team for $320 million in November.

The NFL forbids corporate ownership of its franchises, thus requiring an individual such as Dolan to be the owner, as opposed to Cablevision.

The Jets deferred comment to Goldman Sachs, the New York investment house that is advising the team on the sale, which was also not available for comment.

Spokespeople from Cablevision and Dolan’s office declined to comment.

The newspaper reported that Dolan’s price beats a bid of just under $600 million by Robert Wood Johnson IV, great grandson of one of the founders of Johnson & Johnson. Johnson was not available for comment.

In May, the NFL approved the sale of the Washington Redskins to Maryland communications executive Daniel Snyder for $800 million, a price that includes the stadium in which the Redskins play. Local businessman Alfred Lerner bought the Cleveland Browns expansion team for $530 million in September 1998.

Dolan was reportedly an interested bidder in both teams.

Leon Hess, who also founded the multibillion-dollar oil company Amerada Hess, was part of a group that controlled the team since 1963, when it was named the New York Titans. He bought out the other owners in 1977.

Jets low on fuel

The Jets, besieged by key injuries this year, have a 7-8 record going into the last game of the season. The team came within one game of reaching the Super Bowl last year.

The team is also handicapped in that it doesn’t own its own stadium and thus can’t pocket the revenues from ticket sales and luxury boxes. Instead, the Jets pay rent of $3.9 million a year rent on Giants Stadium; the lease runs through 2008. One of the first mandates of a new owner will be to start pushing to get a new stadium that would be completed by 2009. Goldman Sachs estimates that a new stadium could funnel $55 million in ticket sales and $5 million in stadium-naming rights to the owners of the Jets.

(John Dempsey contributed to this report.)