End of an era
DeBartolo's daughters resign from 49ers front office jobs
Posted: Monday December 20, 1999 11:44 PM
A gambling fraud investigation forced Eddie DeBartolo to relinquish day-to-day control of the 49ers in 1997. Otto Greule Jr./Allsport
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Eddie DeBartolo's daugthers have resigned from their front office positions with the San Francisco 49ers, leaving the team with fewer links than ever to banished co-owner.
"It's really tough," Lisa DeBartolo, who oversaw the team's community outreach and charitable activities as director of the 49ers Foundation for the last seven years, said Monday.
"I think we both thought that we would always work for the 49ers. We always thought we would be a part of it, and maybe even growing, not only with the foundation, but doing more with the team."
"But it was just too hard to stay with the situation. That's just the way it is. It's just our time to go," Nikki DeBartolo said, finishing her older sister's thought. Nikki, 24, was an aid to Lisa, 30, as a foundation coordinator the past four years.
The two sisters have been working under tense circumstances, caught in the middle of a bitter feud between Eddie DeBartolo and his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, and her husband, John York, now the team's top executive.
"It's definitely been strained," Nikki said.
"When we began working here, we were working for my dad and now that he's not here anymore, it's just really different. We really don't speak to my aunt and uncle that much," added Lisa.
York did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment but his spokesman, Sam Singer, said, "Lisa and Nikki are beloved members of the family. They've done a wonderful job for the 49ers through the 49ers Foundation and everyone wishes them the best of luck in their next endeavor."
No replacements were announced, but Singer said the team's outreach and community programs remain a priority.
The sisters said they understand their departure is another signal their father's 22-year run as the team's guiding force is over.
"Even some of the players say that, too, that we're the last link they have to my dad," Lisa said. "And now that we're going, I think people are realizing that this is really happening. But we've been here for a long time working under the conditions that we've been working in now, which are not very happy conditions."
Long a silent partner in the ownership of the 49ers, Denise DeBartolo York assumed managing control of the club two years ago when her brother was overwhelmed by legal problems.
Unhappy over what she considered her brother's reckless fiscal management of the team and family assets, Denise DeBartolo sued Eddie DeBartolo last spring, saying he owed the family-run corporation $94 million.
Within a couple weeks, he countersued, seeking $150 million in damages from his sister, claiming she breached a contract with him.
Both suits have since been put on hold while lawyers from both sides work out a deal dividing some $1 billion in assets held by the family.
A tentative agreement was struck in July under which Denise DeBartolo York would keep the 49ers, along with three family race tracks (two of which she has since sold). Eddie would get stock and certain real estate holdings, leaving the two to go their separate financial ways but divorcing Eddie from the 49ers, who won five Super Bowls during his ownership tenure.
Denise and Eddie have not spoken to each other in nearly a year, according to a source, but their lawyers are working out the final details of the agreement, which is expected to signed early next year. The suits would then be dismissed.
Eddie DeBartolo stepped away from day-to-day control of the team in December 1997 when he became caught up in Louisiana gambling fraud probe involving allegations of bribery in the securing of a casino permit. He pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony crime in October 1998 and last March was suspended for a year and fined $1 million by the NFL.
Eddie DeBartolo has sold his home in the Bay area and moved to Tampa Bay. Nikki and Lisa, who are spending their final week at work for the 49ers, said they have already bought homes there and plan to join their parents next month after spending the holidays at the family's Montana retreat.
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