NFL owners unanimously approve 50 percent sale of Dolphins

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- NFL owners unanimously approved Wayne Huizenga's sale of 50 percent of the Miami Dolphins to New York real estate billionaire Stephen Ross on Monday at the league meetings.

Huizenga will remain as managing partner of the club for the near future, setting no timetable for when Ross will take command. Ross is spending about $550 million for his share of the team and will have options to buy up to 95 percent of the Dolphins.

Ross also is buying Dolphin Stadium and surrounding land.

"This is a bittersweet moment for us," Huizenga said, "but we'll be staying on a little longer. I am pleased that when my time comes to turn it over, that Steve will be a great owner."

The 67-year-old Ross is a former minority owner of the New York Islanders who once tried to purchase the New York Jets.

"It's a great privilege to join Wayne," Ross said. "We've developed a great relationship. To me, right now it's starting the football business and the transition. It's on Wayne's time frame."

Huizenga bought 15 percent of the Dolphins and 50 percent of the stadium from team founder Joe Robbie's family in 1990, then became sole owner in 1994. Total cost of those purchases was $168 million.

"Wayne has built a great franchise," Ross said. "I believe in letting a football man run the football operation and not meddling with him."

That likely means new executive vice president of football operations Bill Parcells won't need to worry about any changes in the chain of command. The 70-year-old Huizenga has been a hands-off owner and Ross seems to be of the same mind.

"Steve and I think alike," Huizenga said. "We think about the fans and we think about winning. It's not about the money."

Miami had the worst season in franchise history, going 1-15, with only a home win over Baltimore in Game 14 preventing a winless record. Huizenga cleaned house and turned over the football operations to the well-traveled and usually successful Parcells.

The Dolphins haven't been to the playoffs since 2001, their longest such drought. But Ross was still eager to invest in the franchise, valued last year by Forbes Magazine at $942 million.

Ross, who has homes in New York and Palm Beach, ranked 68th last year on Forbes' list of richest Americans with a net worth of $4.5 billion. In 1990, he was part of a group that tried to bring baseball to Miami before Huizenga became founding owner of the Florida Marlins.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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