Modell, Arthur B.

views updated


MODELL, ARTHUR B. (Art ; 1925– ), U.S. football team owner who was instrumental in transforming the nfl into the most popular tv sport in American history. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Modell grew up destitute during the Depression and dropped out of high school at 15 to support his mother and two sisters after his father died. During World War ii, he served stateside in the Air Force and then enrolled in television school under the gi Bill. He produced Market Melodies, one of the first regular television shows in the nation, and worked in advertising, public relations and television production in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. Modell was 35, living with and caring for his mother, when he purchased the Cleveland Browns on March 22, 1961 for $4 million – a sixfold increase from the previous franchise sale. He invested $250,000 of his own money, borrowed $2.7 million and found partners for the rest. Modell owned the Browns for 34 seasons but his near bankruptcy forced him to move the team to Baltimore in 1996, provoking the lasting wrath of Browns fans. Soon after moving the team to Baltimore, he sold a minority interest and eventually the controlling interest in the team, and left the game in 2004 after 44 seasons in the nfl. During his time as owner, the Browns won the nfl championship in 1964, reached nfl and afc league title games in 1964, '65, '68, '69, '86, '87, '89. His Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000.

Modell, an influential visionary, helped popularize the nfl through the league's increasingly lucrative television contracts, which he negotiated as chairman of the league's tv committee for 31 years. Along with Pete Rozelle and Roone Arledge, Modell also created Monday Night Football on abc; was instrumental in pushing the owners in the 1960s to share revenues equally; in bringing about the merger of the nfl and the afl by agreeing to move the Browns to the less-established afl for the good of the league; played an essential role in the creation of nfl Films, which became a financial success and one of America's premier production companies, and was instrumental in helping the league raise its profile; and, as chairman of the owners' labor committee, completed the first collective bargaining agreement in nfl history in 1968. Modell was also a leader on diversity by promoting minorities to key positions in his front office, including naming the first black general manager in nfl history. He wrote his autobiography Owning Up: the Art Modell Story, in 2005.

[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]