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Boss Broxmeyer? / Long Island businessman hopes to purchase Expos

Long Island real estate magnate Mark Broxmeyer has entered

a spirited competition to buy the Montreal Expos, making his desires known in

an initial meeting Friday with top Major League Baseball executives.

Broxmeyer, founding partner of Commack-based Fairfield Properties and

author of a true rags-to-riches story, is assembling what he termed a "dream

team" in his effort to win baseball's approval to purchase the Expos and move

them to the Washington, D.C., area. Broxmeyer declined to name other members of

his team beyond brother Gary and son Michael, but speculation centers on

heavyweight political figures, considering Broxmeyer's background. Broxmeyer

has ties to former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former presidential

candidate Steve Forbes, two men who could add considerable luster, and loot in

Forbes' case, to Broxmeyer's team.

Broxmeyer enters a competition that already includes three long-established

Washington-area groups. While his out-of-area residence and late entry into

the fray handicap him slightly, he has a history of overcoming odds. Broxmeyer,

practically penniless after the mortgage company he worked for in the early

'70s went out of business, built a real-estate empire so successful that the

Broxmeyers are believed to be worth a half-billion dollars. Deep pockets and

strong real-estate and finance backgrounds are among their selling points for a

team that would need to construct a ballpark after likely starting in 2004 at

RFK Stadium, which opened in October 1961.

Baseball prefers local ownership but has made exceptions, approving

Floridian John Henry's purchase of the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnatian Bill

DeWitt's acquisition of the St. Louis Cardinals. "I think they'd prefer that

but I don't think it's a deal-breaker," Broxmeyer said in an interview

yesterday.

Three Washington-area groups have been working toward winning the Expos:

One group is led by Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson,

another by telecommunications executive William Collins II, a third by

financier Fred Malek. Johnson recently was awarded the Charlotte NBA expansion

franchise.

Baseball sources say the Expos' new hometown won't officially be determined

until July at the earliest, but indications point strongly to the Washington

area - either Washington or northern Virginia - as the likely winner. Portland,

Ore., is the main challenger. New Jersey was barely mentioned as a possibility

in the meeting with Broxmeyer and his New York associates, a strong indication

it's being given no consideration.

Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos strongly opposes baseball's move to

Washington and is expected to put up a major fight, but baseball would prefer

bracing for that battle than one with George Steinbrenner and Fred Wilpon in

tandem in the New Jersey scenario.

The Expos are in the unusual position of being run by the commissioner's

office, meaning baseball will determine both buyer and relocation site. Last

February, with Major League Baseball's approval, Expos owner Jeffrey Loria

bought the Florida Marlins for $158.5 million from Henry, who in turn purchased

the Red Sox. Since then, MLB has been unsuccessful in finding anybody to buy

the team and keep it in Montreal. Olympic Stadium seats 46,338 but generally

draws fewer than 10,000 fans per game.

"Major League Baseball is going to decide where the team is going to be

situated. If the team went to northern Virginia or Washington, we'd be

interested," Broxmeyer said. "Baseball has had some issues recently, and I

think the opportunity to buy is now. I'm looking at this as a business

decision. I'm serious about this. I'm not looking for press. I think my group

would be a tremendous asset to baseball."

Broxmeyer's business acumen is well known in Long Island circles. Fairfield

Properties owns 5,000 residential units, representing a true comeback story.

"He was at the bottom of the barrel and pulled himself up by the

bootstraps. He's a brilliant businessman," said Frank MacKay, a Broxmeyer

associate. "I believe there's nothing he can't do given the chance."

Providing a glimpse of the sort of owner Broxmeyer might become, MacKay

said, "He's not a control freak. He's a delegator. He'd listen to his baseball

people. He's no Jerry Jones type."

The Expos were 83-79 in 2002 despite severe payroll limitations. "The

people running the Expos did a very, very good job," Broxmeyer said. "I'm not

saying we'd clean house. If the best people are already there, they should stay

there."

The competition to purchase the Expos is stiff. Baseball's chief operating

officer, Bob DuPuy, didn't tip baseball's hand, saying, "We regularly meet with

people interested in owning a baseball team in an effort to match up

franchises with prospective buyers. There's no commitment or preconceived bias

toward any location or particular group at this time."

Entrants already are stacked with prominent people and local celebrities.

Johnson has Redskins owner Daniel Snyder on his team. Malek's team includes

beloved Redskins cornerback Darrell Green, who is retiring at nearly 43 after a

20-year career; AOL founder James Kimsey and well-known Washington politico

and Bill Clinton friend Vernon Jordan.

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