A group of investors that includes football Hall of Famer Jim Brown as a minority partner will announce its purchase of the Long Island Lizards professional lacrosse team today.
Andrew Murstein, president of Manhattan-based Medallion Financial Corp., said his specialty finance company was well into negotiations to buy the team when its previous owner, Scott Rosenzweig of Rockville Centre, died in February. The selling price was in the neighborhood of $1.5 million, with Medallion Financial holding roughly 60 percent and Brown about 20 percent of ownership.
Brown, 76, starred in lacrosse and football at Manhasset High School and Syracuse University before setting rushing records for the Cleveland Browns. He was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1983.
"I'm an old lacrosse player who believes the sport is growing faster than any other sport," Brown said by telephone from his Southern California home. "I want to be a part of it. It's a sport that's great for youngsters and we have an opportunity here to expose them to the sport."
Brown will attend the Lizards' next home game Friday night at Hofstra University -- his first trip to Long Island in many years, he said. "This is definitely for investment purposes," said Murstein, who played junior varsity lacrosse at Rosyln High School but never made the varsity. "I teased Jim Brown," he said, "that, like him, I was All-County in basketball and football and track. But, unlike him, not All-State or All-America."
The two men met through other members of the Sports Properties Acquisitions Corp., which is part of Medallion Financial. It was Sports Properties Acquisitions, Murstein said, that raised $216 million four years ago to buy Richard Petty Motor Sports and had been seeking ownership in any of the various professional leagues except the NFL, which prohibits corporate ownership.
The Lizards will continue to play home games at Hofstra, where their average attendance of 3,827 was fifth among Major League Lacrosse's six teams (now eight) last year. But Murstein said the team would "expand our exclusivity area" to Westchester, Connecticut, New York City and New Jersey, and might play exhibitions at such venues as Randalls Island.
The MLL is in its 12th season, and had it been around when Brown graduated from Syracuse, "It might have been a toss-up," he said, whether he'd have chosen lacrosse over pro football.