MODELL, ARTHUR B. (23 June 1925 - 6 September 2012) was a National Football League team owner, who purchased the CLEVELAND BROWNS in 1961 and moved the team to in 1995 where it was renamed the Ravens. He was majority owner of the Ravens until 2004.
Modell was born in Brooklyn, New York, to George and Kitty Modell. He dropped out of high school after his father’s death and served in the Army Air Forces during WORLD WAR II. He joined ABC in 1948, and in 1954, went to work for L.H. Hartman, a New York firm providing advertisements in the new medium of television.
In 1961, he bought the Cleveland Browns for four million dollars. He served on the NFL’s television committee from 1962 to 1993 and served as the NFL president from 1967 to 1969, during which time he helped negotiate a collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players. Modell’s marketing acumen included ideas for football preseason doubleheaders and he volunteered the Browns to host the first Monday Night Football game against the Jets in 1970. He was one of three owners that shifted their teams (the others were the Baltimore Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers) from the NFL to the AFC after the NFL-AFL merger to even out the two new conferences.
In 1973, Modell formed Cleveland Stadium Corporation, leasing the Browns’ home of CLEVELAND MUNICIPAL STADIUM from the city and operating it. A decade later, Modell was sued by one of the Browns’ minority owners for trying to sell the corporation to the team.
Modell was a hands-on owner of the team, directly dealing with coaches and players. One of his first moves as owner was firing Paul Brown after the 1962 season. Brown’s successor, Blanton Collier, led the Browns to the NFL title in 1964, and the team played in the NFL Championship Game in the 1965, 1968 and 1969 seasons.
Although friendly with star running back Jim Brown, Modell issued an ultimatum that led to Brown’s retirement. While Brown was in England filming “The Dirty Dozen,” Modell decreed he’d be fined for failing to show up on time for training camp in 1966. Brown retired instead.
The Browns ran through a succession of coaches in the 1970s as the Steelers were in ascent in the new American Football Conference: Nick Skorich (1971-1974), Forrest Gregg (1975-1977) and Sam Rutigliano (1978-1984). All were ultimately fired by Modell.
Rutigliano was fired midway through the 1984 season and replaced by defensive coordinator Marty Schottenheimer. With Bernie Kosar as quarterback and Schottenheimer as coach, the Browns won three straight division titles from 1985-1987. Schottenheimer left the Browns in 1988, and his defensive coordinator, Bud Carson, became head coach. The Browns won the wild card in 1988 and the division in 1989. Carson was fired during the 1990 season, which ended with the Browns going 3-13 under interim coach Jim Shofner. Following the season, New York Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick was named head coach.
In 1995, citing continued financial difficulties, Modell decided to move the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. In an unprecedented settlement agreement, the city of Cleveland received the rights to the name Browns, the team colors of seal brown and orange, and the team’s records, and promises for an expansion team.
Modell sold all but 1 percent of his interest in the Ravens in 2004, and retained that stake until his death. He was predeceased by his wife, the former Patricia Breslin, whom he married in 1969. When he married Breslin, he adopted her two sons, David and John, who survived him.