Former Browns Owner Art Modell Dies at 87
BALTIMORE, Maryland — Former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell has died at the age of 87, Fox 8 Sports anchor John Telich has independently confirmed.
Modell had been hospitalized at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for a heart ailment, Telich reports. He is believed to have died early Thursday morning.
Modell did not leave Cleveland on good terms. He moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1995. He was owner of the Ravens from 1996 until 2004.
“I had no other choice,” Modell said from a Baltimore parking lot on November 5, 1995. The team was deep in debt and he said he saw no hope of financial salvation in Cleveland.
Before that move, Modell had a storied history in Cleveland.
He became majority owner of the Browns on March 21, 1961. At the age of 35, he purchased the team for about $4 million. He used $200,000 of his own money, loans and investors to become majority owner of the team.
Just two years after gaining control of the team, Modell fired legendary coach Paul Brown.
The following year, the team won the NFL Championship. The 1964 championship would become Modell’s greatest triumph in Cleveland. For the rest of the decade, almost every game was sold out with more than 80,000 fans in attendance.
The Browns made it to the National Football League Championship game three more times in the 1960’s but failed to win a title.
Modell had a number of failed business ventures including an amusement park, a manufacturing plant and a radio station that all lost money. He ended up selling them all.
He married former television actress Pat Breslin in 1969 and adopted her two sons, John and David. They remained married until her death in 2011.
In the 1970’s, he formed a management corporation to lease the stadium from the city. He ended up spending more money on repairs and maintenance than he collected in rent from the Browns and Indians.
His health began deteriorating in the 1980’s. That’s when he underwent open heart surgery twice and had a hip replacement.
Throughout his career in Cleveland, Modell was a civic leader and philanthropist. He and his wife left their mark on the Cleveland Clinic and other health care facilities. He became president of the Cleveland Clinic Board of Trustees. He also served on the boards of Cleveland State University, Baldwin-Wallace College, National City Bank, Ohio Bell and Churchill Downs Racetrack.
All of that work was overshadowed when he moved the team to Baltimore. He remained owner of the Ravens until 2004.
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— Former Fox 8 Sports anchor Danny Coughlin contributed to this report