MIAMI -- New Miami Dolphins majority owner Stephen Ross won't mess with success: He says Bill Parcells will remain in charge of the football operation.
Ross, a New York real estate billionaire, completed his purchase of 95 percent of the franchise for $1 billion Tuesday, with Wayne Huizenga retaining a 5 percent interest.
Ross then addressed the subject of Parcells' status. The sale triggered a clause in Parcells' contract allowing him to leave and still receive the $9-12 million remaining on the four-year contract he signed a year ago.
"Parcells is in charge," Ross said in a conference call. "He's staying, and I think we're very fortunate to have someone like Bill Parcells, who I think people have come to recognize as probably the best football mind in America."
Thanks to Parcells, Ross takes over with the franchise's fortunes on the upswing. When the first phase of his purchase was completed last February, the Dolphins were coming off a 1-15 season, worst in team history. Under the new Parcells regime, they improved to 11-6 this season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Parcells broke his silence Tuesday on the subject of his status. Scouting players practicing for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., he spoke briefly with several reporters and was asked if he planned to remain as the Dolphins' vice president of football operations.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" he said. "What do your eyes tell you?"
When asked why he wouldn't commit outright to staying, Parcells said experience taught him never to rule anything out. He said if something happened to change his mind, he'd "hate to be called a liar."
But Parcells said he likes Ross and is not seeking a new contract.
"It's not about money," Parcells said. "I've got more than I can spend."
Ross said he's 100 percent certain Parcells will stay for another season.
"I feel very, very comfortable with him, and I think he feels comfortable with me," Ross said. "I think we've developed a good rapport. ... Bill Parcells thinks like a businessman: You don't solve all your problems with money; you solve them with brains."
In February 2008, Ross bought 50 percent of the franchise, Dolphin Stadium and surrounding land from Huizenga for $550 million, with an agreement to later become managing general partner.
Ross closed on the purchase of an additional 45 percent Tuesday. That part of the agreement received pre-approval from the NFL in October.
Huizenga, 71, became sole owner of the Dolphins in 1994. A year ago he said it was time for someone else to assume control.
General manager Jeff Ireland, scouting players preparing Tuesday for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., said the sale won't affect the way he, Parcells and coach Tony Sparano go about things.
"It doesn't really change what I do, it doesn't change what Tony does, it doesn't change what Bill does," Ireland said. "We've got to win games."
Ross plans to meet Friday with Parcells, Ireland and Sparano, and said he foresees no changes on the football side. He said he found the atmosphere at the Dolphins' recent playoff game electrifying and wants to build on this season's success.
Tony Sparano feels that the 2008 Dolphins have successfully changed the football culture in Miami.
"That is the most important thing, and the thing that drives me -- creating and being part of a winning organization," Ross said. "There is nothing more important than that."
Ross said Bryan Wiedmeier will remain as team president, and negotiations regarding a position on the business side are ongoing with Arlen Kantarian, former U.S. Tennis Association CEO. Ross said he's talking to potential minority partners, but none has agreed to invest yet.
Huizenga bought 15 percent of the Dolphins and 50 percent of the stadium from team founder Joe Robbie's family in 1990. Total cost of those purchases was $168 million.
The Dolphins never reached the Super Bowl under Huizenga's ownership.
"The sale represents a bittersweet moment for me, but the timing is right to complete it," he said in a statement. "I know under Steve's leadership the Dolphins are in outstanding hands. We are still a 5 percent partner in the franchise and the stadium. The Huizenga family and organization will do everything we can to support Steve and the team for the benefit of all of South Florida."
Ross, 68, made his billions as a lawyer and developer and is chairman of Related Companies, an international real estate development company. He has homes in New York and Palm Beach, and he ranked 78th in 2008 on Forbes' list of richest Americans with a net worth of $4.5 billion.
Ross attended Miami Beach High School and the University of Florida, then earned degrees from Michigan and Wayne State law school. He began his career in Detroit as a tax attorney, and the Michigan business school bears his name.
Once a minority partner with the New York Islanders, Ross was part of a group in 1990 that tried to bring baseball to Miami before Huizenga became founding owner of the Florida Marlins. He also made an unsuccessful bid for the New York Jets in 1999.
"When I read the paper, the first section I go to is the sports section," Ross said. "Since I wasn't going to make it as a player, it was a dream to become an owner."
Last year Forbes Magazine valued the Dolphins at $1 billion, with a revenue stream of about $232 million.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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