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Developer buys half of Dolphins

Wayne Huizenga, sole owner since 1994, would remain managing general partner.

Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga, right, announces that Stephen Ross, left, has become a 50 percent partner in the Miami Dolphin franchise, the stadium and surrounding developable land at Miami Dolphin Stadium on Friday in Miami.

AP photo

MIAMI — New York real estate developer Stephen Ross agreed to buy half the Miami Dolphins from owner Wayne Huizenga for $550 million, with an opportunity to become managing general partner.

Ross would acquire 50 percent of the franchise, Dolphin Stadium and surrounding developable land, the team said Friday. The NFL must approve the sale.

Huizenga, the sole owner since 1994, would remain managing general partner for now. He turned 70 in December, and his team is coming off a 1-15 season, the worst in franchise history.

“My heart does not want me to do this, but my head tells me it’s the right thing to do,” Huizenga said at a news conference. “I will certainly be a part of this team, a partner in this team until I die.”

Ross is chairman of the Related Companies, an international real estate development company, and he grew up in South Florida as a Dolphins fan. He said he considered buying other NFL teams in the past, but the Dolphins were his preference.

“I think the price I paid shows that,” he said. “I’m a fan to start with, and I’ll certainly be at the games.”

Huizenga said he and Ross will be involved 50-50 in decisions.

“It’s kind of like being married,” Huizenga said. “No, I take it back. It’s not at all like being married.”

Negotiations began last April and became public in December. Speculation about a deal faded when Huizenga hired Bill Parcells as executive vice president of football operations and pledged to remain majority owner.

“I have always said that I wanted to bring in a partner, and I can’t think of anyone more appropriate than Steve,” Huizenga said. “He has unbridled enthusiasm, and I couldn’t feel better about the future than I do with Steve as my partner and Bill Parcells running football operations.”

Ross said he hasn’t spoken with Parcells but is excited to work with him.

“You can’t help but respect the track record of Bill Parcells,” Ross said.

Ross, who has a home in Palm Beach, has been involved with sports before. He was a minority partner with the NHL’s New York Islanders, and in 1990 he was part of a group interested in bringing baseball to Miami.

Instead, Huizenga became founding owner of the Florida Marlins, then later sold the team. Huizenga also was the founding owner of the NHL’s Florida Panthers, then sold that franchise.

Football has always been Huizenga’s first love, but the Dolphins haven’t been to the AFC championship game since he became sole owner. They’ve failed to even make the playoffs since 2001 and last season lost their first 13 games.

Still, for an investor, the Dolphins have plenty of appeal. Forbes Magazine last year valued the franchise at $942 million, with a revenue stream of about $215 million. The valuation makes the Dolphins the 15th-priciest NFL franchise.

“Having grown up in South Florida, Dolphins football has been a lifetime passion for me,” Ross said. “I am energized by this opportunity, and look forward to being able to once again watch the Dolphins win a Super Bowl alongside all the other loyal Dolphin fans.”

Ross would also become part-owner of a stadium that ranks among the NFL’s best. Huizenga recently committed to spend about $250 million to upgrade the stadium, with the final phase of work to be completed by 2009.

Huizenga bought the Dolphins from the heirs of team founder Joe Robbie for $138 million.

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