TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Malcolm Glazer, a self-made billionaire who shunned the spotlight while leading the takeover of English soccer's Manchester United and transforming the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers into Super Bowl champions, died Wednesday. He was 85.
The reclusive Palm Beach businessman had been in failing health since April 2006 when a pair of strokes left him with impaired speech and limited mobility in his right arm and leg.
He was not involved in day to day operations of either of his sports franchises and was rarely spotted at games in recent years, instead remaining at his mansion in South Florida while entrusting leadership of the Bucs to three of six children, sons Bryan, Joel and Ed.
While some disgruntled fans blame ownership for a stretch of futility that has seen the Bucs miss the playoffs the past six seasons, the elder Glazer generally will be remembered for making the commitment necessary to keep the team from moving to another city in the 1990s.
Glazer raised his profile in 2005 with a $1.47 billion purchase of Manchester United that was bitterly opposed by fans of one of the world's richest soccer clubs. Before that, his unobtrusive management style helped transform the Bucs from a laughingstock into a model franchise that won the franchise's only NFL title 12 years ago.
"The thoughts of everyone at Manchester United are with the family tonight," Manchester United said in a statement.
Born Aug. 25, 1928, in Rochester, New York, the son of a watch-parts salesman, Glazer began working for the family business when he was 8 and took over the operation as a teenager when his father died in 1943.
As president and CEO of First Allied Corp., the holding company for the family business interests, he invested in mobile-home parks, restaurants, food service equipment, marine protein, television stations, real estate, natural gas and oil production and other ventures. Forbes ranked him this year, along with his family, as tied for No. 354 on the world's richest people list with an estimated net worth of $4.2 billion.
He purchased the Bucs for a then-NFL record $192 million in 1995, taking over one of the worst-run and least successful franchises in professional sports. And while Glazer once said he probably overpaid by $50 million, the value of the team has more than quadrupled.
"Malcolm Glazer was the guiding force behind the building of a Super Bowl-champion organization. His dedication to the community was evident in all he did, including his leadership in bringing Super Bowls to Tampa Bay," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "Malcolm's commitment to the Bucs, the NFL and the people of the Tampa Bay region are the hallmarks of his legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Linda, their six children and the entire Glazer family."
In an era when many owners of professional teams attract nearly as much attention as the athletes, Glazer was content to allow three of his sons handle daily operation of the Bucs and rarely granted interviews or visited the team's offices and training facility.
But he was a fixture at games before his health became an issue, and he spent generously to acquire players and provide coaches and front office personnel with the resources to do their jobs. To fans accustomed to the frugal ways of original Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse, Glazer was a savior.
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