Art Modell, ex-owner of NFL’s Browns and Ravens, dies

Art Modell, former owner of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns, has died.

The 87-year-old Modell, a pioneer of the National Football League’s partnership with television networks, died Thursday of natural causes at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Modell was well-known for his philanthropic activities and had been a supporter of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. He also chaired a $100 million drive to build a cardiovascular tower for the Johns Hopkins Heart Institute. He and his wife, Patricia, donated $3.5 million to renovate the city’s Lyric Opera House, which is now named for its benefactors.

“He really cared and cared deeply whether for Jews, Catholics or the plight of cities,” Marc Terrill, president of the Associated, told JTA. “He simply cared about people, and his actions revealed his admirable character and he’ll be missed.”

Modell grew up in an Orthodox neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 1920s and 1930s as the son of an electronics dealer who lost everything in the 1929 stock market crash. With his family destitute, Modell dropped out of high school to work as an electrician’s helper at a New York shipyard, making 45 cents an hour.

After serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, he returned to New York and rightly identified the nascent television industry as a strong growth market. He eventually moved from TV production to advertising

In 1960, while working at a Madison Avenue advertising agency, the avid sports fan learned that the Cleveland Browns were for sale. Modell, then 35, jumped at the opportunity. He put down $3.93 million for the team and moved to Cleveland.

He was soon negotiating contracts for the NFL with television networks — serving as head of the NFL’s television committee for 31 years — and pushed for the creation of “Monday Night Football.”

In 1996, Modell broke the heart of Browns fans by moving his team to Baltimore and changing its name to the Ravens.

The city of Cleveland went to court to block the move. The case ended with a $12 million settlement from Modell, including the promise that Modell would allow a new team to play in Cleveland with the Browns name and records.

Ironically, the Baltimore Colts had been taken from the city to Indianapolis by owner Robert Irsay in 1984, breaking the hearts of Baltimore fans.

In 1999, due to financial difficulties, Modell sold a minority interest in the Ravens to Steve Biscotti, who eventually bought the controlling interests in 2004.

Patricia Modell died last October at 80.

Cleveland Browns sale ends 51-year Jewish ownership

The sale of the Cleveland Browns ends 51 years of Jewish ownership of the National Football League team. 

The sale of the team to a group headed by truck-stop magnate Jimmy Haslam III was confirmed by the NFL Network on Aug. 2, according to the Cleveland Jewish News. The deal reportedly is worth more than $1 billion.

Randy Lerner had inherited the team after his father, Al, died in 2002. In 1996, Art Modell, who had purchased the team in 1961 for $4 million, moved his NFL franchise to Baltimore and had it renamed the Baltimore Ravens. 

In 1998, Al Lerner bought the rights to the Browns for $530 million.  

At Browns training camp in Berea, Ohio, the team’s president, Mike Holmgren, said the franchise will not leave the area a second time, according to the Cleveland Jewish News.

“It’s my understanding that from the get-go that’s been one of the stipulations, and both principals understand that,” he reportedly said. “The Cleveland Browns are not going anywhere.”

Al Davis, maverick owner of Oakland Raiders, dies

Al Davis, the maverick owner of the Oakland Raiders, has died.

Davis, who served as coach and general manager of the NFL team and later became its principal owner, died at his home in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday—Yom Kippur—according to the team’s website. He was 82.

Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.

He was involved in several lawsuits against the National Football League and had a longtime feud with its late commissioner, Pete Rozelle. Davis won a lawsuit allowing him to move the Raiders to Los Angeles in 1982, then he returned the team to Northern California 12 years later.

Davis was the commissioner of the American Football League but resigned after the AFL and the NFL announced their merger in the late 1960s.

The Massachusetts native grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Eulogies:Avner Sharoni

Avner Sharoni, owner of Tempo restaurant in Encino, died April 13 at the age of 49.

In 1977, Sharoni, then a 24-year-old Israeli, moved to Los Angeles after he served in the Israel Defense Force. He bought Art’s International Sidewalk Cafe and within a few weeks, had added hummus and pita to the menu and changed the name to Tempo, after the popular Israeli soda.

"For 25 years, Tempo restaurant has been, and still is, the place and central heart of the Israeli community in Los Angeles," said his wife.

"Avner was a man with lots of charisma and energy and many dreams to achieve," his family says. "He was a hard-working man with many ambitions. He had a vision to create a restaurant that would symbolize and present his own feelings for Israel; a restaurant that would encompass food and atmosphere, and be a place of gathering for Israelis to feel close to Israel.

"He helped with all his heart and never wanted anything in return. This was a man who believed in giving to others and making the world a better place.

"Avner lived his life in high spirits and this is how he would want to be remembered and loved forever."

He is survived by his wife, Gilli; son, Dellon; daughter, Vittal; brother, Ygal (Debi); sister, Dorit (Ronnie); parents, Haviv and Dalia; parents-in-law, Yehuda and Relly; cousins, Itzik and Rikki; and many nieces and nephews in the United States and Israel. — The Sharoni Family

The Jewish Journal staff mourn his passing and wish to express their condolences to his family.