At about the same time, Chuck put $1.9 million toward the manufacture of a new line of Michael Jackson clothing, an investment that exacerbated already strained relations between the Sullivans and the Murray group. Each side began claiming that the other was violating the option agreement. Many observers suspected the Sullivans were trying to kill the deal. The price for the team had been set at $63 million. But the Sullivans had already taken—and spent—nearly $23 million of that, and while the balance would certainly help, it would not come close to covering their debt.
Shortly before this year's Super Bowl, the sides finally negotiated seriously. Again the sale appeared imminent. According to sources close to the discussions, the Sullivans had worked out a package that included these provisions: Billy would retain the title of chairman of the board for life, he would be paid more than $250,000 a year for life, the Sullivan family would receive four new cars every year, the family would be given a luxury box (value: from $35,000 to $100,000) at Sullivan Stadium, and the family would be given 25 tickets for every home game as well as a percentage of the Super Bowl tickets the Pats are allotted each year. But when it came time to sign on the dotted line, the Sullivans balked again. Murray and his partners could take the dithering no longer. They filed suits in both state and federal court.
What happens next is anyone's guess. Whoever ends up with the Patriots will be getting a financially emaciated team, and he will need a healthy supply of capital to keep it afloat.
Most NFL owners will not comment on the Sullivan situation. Those who will talk agree with Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, who says, "We would all like to see Billy come out of the situation in a positive fashion."
That would take some doing.