The books she inspected when she took over as vice-president showed that the Eagles had lost money in five of the previous six years—$1.2 million in 1977, $335,591 in '79, $309,291 in their Super Bowl year of 1980, $1,426,000 in '81 and close to $5 million in the strike year of '82. Only in 1978 had they been in the black, earning $849,422. She went to work. She had all expenses pulled from the computer and itemized in two big ledger books, annotating the figures on little yellow square paste-on sheets. For example, under CAR RENTALS she queried: "Why are some people using D and E [special request] classifications?" She consolidated, cut back, economized.
Fletcher had all the executives write job descriptions for themselves, and when she studied them carefully, heads started to roll. One of the first to go was Ellis, the ticket man. A key witness at his arbitration hearing before Rozelle was Chick McElrone, the club's assistant publicity man and an Eagle employee for 12 years. He testified that he had been told by Ellis' superior that Ellis hadn't quit, as the Eagles maintained, but had been fired.
"Leonard Tose said after that, 'Where's your loyalty?' " says McElrone, who later left the Eagles when they brought in a new man, Ed Wisneski, over him. "I said, 'It's not a question of loyalty, it's a question of fairness.' The thing that sticks with me, though, is the last thing Susan told me. She said, 'Your problem, Chick, is that you've got too much integrity.' "
"What I tried to convey to Chick," Fletcher says, "is that friendship is a wonderful thing, but there were some confidential conversations we had here, and you don't discuss them at an arbitration hearing."
Fletcher and her father had been looking for buyers since January. One name that surfaced was Philadelphia Flyers Board Chairman Ed Snider. Other names were mentioned, but on June 17 an eight-page handwritten memorandum of agreement was signed by Tose, Fletcher and Louis Guida of Yardley, Pa., the leader of a five-person syndicate that was to buy the Eagles. In addition to Guida, a Merrill Lynch vice-president and syndicator of the horse Niatross, the group included Ira Lampert, a Dix Hills, N.Y. accountant; and Fletcher's close friends, the Newmans of Narberth, Pa. Dr. Julius Newman is a plastic surgeon known as Dr. Nose—"He gave me the nose I have now," Fletcher says—and his wife, Sandy, had worked in the same law firm as Fletcher. The fifth member of the group was Fletcher herself. The man who had gotten the purchasers together, Zinman, was not mentioned in the document. He had recently pleaded guilty to income tax evasion and been fined and sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
The buyers, accompanied by lawyers, had met with Tose and Fletcher at Tose's summer home in Longport, N.J., near Atlantic City. What actually happened there has been widely disputed. Guida said Tose was in a hurry to sign so he could break out the Dom Perignon champagne and "get on with the celebration," but his daughter insisted that he read the agreement. Suggestions were made, numbers were changed. The upfront money was set at $400,000. Tose was to receive $1 million in consulting fees from the new ownership the first year, $500,000 a year for the next three years and $250,000 a year thereafter until his death. Guida says Tose told him he "couldn't live" on that, so the amount was raised to $400,000. Fletcher was to get 20% of the club, the purchase money to come from a loan from the other syndicate members to be repaid primarily out of her share of the club's yearly profits. Before this deal was signed, Tose had indicated to the press that he would retain 51% of the club, but the agreement called for him to get just 1%. Fletcher would run the team, and the syndicate would pick up the Eagles' $33 million debt, which included such future items as deferred contract payments, plus Tose's personal debt of $9.1 million. The whole package amounted to a $42.1 million price tag for the franchise.
A phrase saying the memorandum had "no binding effect" was crossed out and initialed by Tose, Fletcher and Guida. "Mr. Tose said, if I was in your shoes I'd want it the same way,' " Guida testified in court. " 'Frankly, I've been trying to sell this team for six months...and I want it binding as much as you do.' "
The agreement was signed and the refreshments were broken out, hoagie sandwiches and Dom Perignon, the gamblers' champagne—"Donny P" they call it in Vegas. Eleven days later Sandy Newman went to visit her friend, Susan, and she says she was told the deal was off and that Tose was negotiating with Snider for a better deal. It was then that the Guida group went to court.
And that's where the matter rests. Fletcher contends that the memorandum was not a final document but merely a starting point and that she and her father could end up owning 51% of the club. But she adds, "There are settlement negotiations going on right now. Remember that 94 percent of all cases are settled before they reach trial."
Tose's gambling losses were never officially tabulated, but in April he promised Rozelle he was through with the tables. "I could never give my dad advice on something like gambling," Fletcher says. "He's his own man. In areas where he doesn't ask for advice, I don't give it."