Leonard Tose bought the Eagles in 1969 for $16.5 million dollars. At the time this was a record for a sports franchise. Oh how the times have changed as some franchises are valued at nearly $1 billion, including the Eagles. Tose did have an eye for talent. In 1976 he was able to convince Dick Vermeil to leave UCLA and come coach the Eagles. Vermeil was an essential hire because the Eagles had one winning season from 1962 – 1975. At the time the Vermeil hiring raised a number of questions however after the 1980 Super Bowl appearance all questions were answered.
Leonard Tose loved to spend money. Former sports editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer Frank Dolson said of Tose, “some people buy stamps, others collect antiques, Tose’s hobby is spending money.” Leonard Tose made his millions in the trucking industry however compulsive gambling nearly led to losing all of it. He once admitted he figured he lost 50 million over the course of his life gambling.
To give you an idea of what kind of money Tose had, he would fly to games in his personal helicopter. Although very well off, he was able to deal well with players, front office and coaches. Bill Bergey said, “he was the best supporting person you could imagine, all the players loved him.” In 1985 Leonard Tose was forced to sell the team to Norman Braman as he reportedly had a $25 million dollar gambling debt to Atlantic City. Braman purchased the team for $65 million. Leonard Tose was a good owner however he was simply out of control and didn’t have a lot of stability in his life. He was married 5 times to put it in perspective. The final sale to Braman helped stabilize the team and firmly entrenched the Eagles in the city for good.
Tose almost moved the Eagles to Arizona in the mid 80’s as he wasn’t happy with the situation here in Philadelphia. A reporter from AZ wrote a piece on this happening and that’s how all Philadelphians found out. If it wasn’t for this report we could have had a Baltimore Colts fiasco as they bolted in the middle of the night.
Leonard Tose passed away on April 15, 2003. It’s Kind of fitting that a guy with an eye for gambling died on tax day. A lot of unclaimed winnings I’m sure.
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Episode 3 of the BS podcast: birdsscoop.podbean.com