PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Anne Arundel County businessman Stephen Bisciottibought himself an early birthday present yesterday.
Bisciotti, who turns 40 on April 10, was given unanimous approval to buy 49percent of the Ravens -- with an option to buy the other 51 percent in fouryears -- by the 31 NFL owners at their annual March meetings yesterday.
"We've got a winner and the league has a winner," Ravens owner Art Modellsaid as he introduced Bisciotti at a news conference after the owners approvedthe transaction as their first order of business.
Bisciotti, who is paying $275 million for a minority interest and will payan additional $325 million for the remaining 51 percent in four to six years,said the purchase was "an opportunity to fulfill a lifetime dream."
Bisciotti has no problem waiting four years to take control of the team,but wouldn't have purchased it if he had to take over immediately.
"If he wanted to leave right away, I wouldn't have been one of thebidders," he said.
Bisciotti said his children are 14 and 12, and he wants to spend time withthem now before they go off to college. He added that his fast-growingcompany, which is projected to have $3.7 billion in revenues this year, needsa lot of his attention in the coming years.
The company, which recently changed its name from Aerotek to Allegis, wasdescribed by Bisciotti as the largest privately owned staffing company in theworld, with 60,000 employees.
Bisciotti also likes to stay in the background. He declined a request for aone-on-one interview after the news conference.
Bisciotti, who described his duties as "water boy" for the next four years,said he'll even give Modell a fifth year to run the team if the Ravens win theSuper Bowl in January 2004.
"We're going to have to let him stay around for a repeat," said Bisciotti,who has a two-year window to exercise his option, which opens in spring 2004.The clock will start ticking when the two sides reach settlement in the nextweek.
Bisciotti also said that Modell will be around the team "forever," andModell said he could stay on as a $1 a year employee "in any way possible."
When Bisciotti was asked about bringing local ownership to the Ravens, hesaid, "Local ownership doesn't mean anything if it's not skilled localownership. Right now, I don't have the skills to run a professional footballteam."
Bisciotti said he hopes to learn from Modell and his son, David, over thenext four years.
"I can sit back and learn from one of the icons. Having Art Modell in ourcity is a great gift to Baltimore and a great gift to me personally," he said.
He added, "I have the luxury of having two generations of Modells [to learnfrom]. What Art doesn't know, David does."
Modell said that he originally had 18 strong inquiries about the franchise,and after the field was narrowed to 12, Bisciotti was the only one who waswilling to let him run the team for four more years.
Modell said there were two reasons he wanted the four-year window.
First, it will give him the chance to experience what he called an"emotional meltdown."
Modell, who bought the Cleveland Browns in 1961 and moved them to Baltimorein 1996, said, "You don't walk away after 40 years without some pulling of theheartstrings."
Second, he wants to win a Super Bowl before he turns the team over toBisciotti.
"I wanted one more shot at the big enchilada, which has eluded us for yearsand years," he said.
Ravens coach Brian Billick said there is no feeling within the organizationthat Modell is any kind of a lame duck, and that it will be business as usualfor the team.
"There's no lame-duck mentality here. Ozzie Newsome [the vice president ofplayer personnel] and I have a very clear, definite parameters as to what ouroperation structure is going to be for the next four years. There is noambiguity in any way, shape or form about this being the Baltimore Ravens' andModell's team," Billick said.
NOTES: New York Jets coach Al Groh Jets repeated that he has no interest intrading wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and didn't mean to suggest otherwisewhen he said in a statement last week that he wasn't interested in tradingJohnson "at this time." Groh said, "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."Billick said teams have inquired about the fifth pick in the draft, held bythe Ravens, even though most teams appear to be leery about the pick. "Peoplehave called. There's been interest, so we'll fine out how substantive it is,"Billick said. The Ravens were disappointed they didn't get any compensatorydraft picks even though they lost such high-priced free agents as Orlando Brown, Wally Williams and James Jones last off-season. The NFL canceled outthose losses by counting the lower-priced free agents the Ravens signed.