Punt

Sure, Miami has an empty stadium. And sure, Bruce Frey has pigskin on the brain. But that's no excuse for the Canadian football league.

Because of such mismanagement, the Posse folded after only one season. In the draft that disbursed the Posse's players around the league, the Ottawa Rough Riders selected a guard named Derrell Robertson, unaware that Robertson had died in a car crash months earlier. "I don't know how it happened," Ottawa coach Jim Golstrap told reporters.

It was about this time that Bruce Frey was flipping around his cable TV and ended up clicking on ESPN2 and a Canadian Football League contest. He noticed that this version of the game was faster and generally more exciting than NFL games. He also noticed A and this was most important -- that the Las Vegas Posse was available. Through the flickering glow of a television screen, Bruce Frey saw his destiny.

It goes without saying that Frey is a devoted football fan. He believes the sport teaches discipline, teamwork, friendship, and a host of other positive character traits. At the Harvard School for Boys in Chicago, an elite private high school, he played for the team as a lineman. After graduation and some time in the Marines, he joined the offensive line at tiny Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. Frey would have graduated with the class of 1964 had he not dropped out after two years. "He was well liked by the other football players and he had a good collegiate sense of humor," says Gordon Soenksen, the college's chief fundraiser. "Let's just say that he and his friends enjoyed their college time."

Frey, who is a generous financial supporter of Guilford and its football program despite not being a bona fide alumnus, says he dropped out because of a broken leg. He couldn't play football any more and he was eager to make a living, so he moved back to Chicago. He and his young wife moved into a model home and earned money by showing it to prospective buyers. Frey's real estate career was born.

He hooked up with Downs Mohl & Company, one of the first property-management firms in the nation. From an entry-level position, Frey says he worked enough late nights, early mornings, and long weekends to eventually become the company's president and principal shareholder.

At his own company, formed in 1975 and named the BJF Group in his honor, Frey earned a solid reputation for rescuing the real estate holdings of struggling savings and loans, insurance companies, and government agencies. The reputation paid off in the Reagan-Bush Eighties as the BJF Group secured lucrative contracts with the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation and the Resolution Trust Corporation.

Frey's ties to South Florida began in 1980, when he and some partners purchased the Village of Kings Creek apartment development in Kendall and converted it to condominiums. He lived in the city briefly before buying a winter home in Palm Beach Gardens. The winter home became the permanent home about three years ago, Frey says, when his asthma was so irritated by Chicago pollen that he was occasionally hospitalized.

As his business prospered and grew, Frey pulled back from its daily operations, worked on his tan, and began looking for other opportunities to exercise his considerable energy.

"Sometimes, when you get to my age, making money doesn't seem that important any more," he says. "I'm 54 years old. I've made my way. I'm done. But maybe I can still leave my mark on society."

As he looked for a way to leave his mark, he also looked at what he loved: football. He maintains season tickets to the Bears and the Dolphins. Probably his best friend in the whole world is Liffort Hobley, the former Dolphin he hired to tutor his son Brian as a cornerback. Frey's favorite current Chicago Bears player is kicker Kevin Butler, largely because they once did some business together. It's great hanging around these men of grace, agility, and ability, basking in the palpable electricity of their presence. Frey will never forget the buzz in the crowd the day he brought his idol Mike Ditka to a Dolphins game. People swarmed around the former player and coach, eager to touch him and talk to him.

This is what Frey wanted. And so he decided to buy the Miami Dolphins.
Joe Robbie, the Dolphins' original owner, died in 1990, and his wife followed him not long after that. The deaths left the Robbie children an NFL team, a stadium, and nearly $50 million in inheritance taxes. After fractious debates about how to proceed, the family members decided they had to sell. On June 14, 1993, Frey and his Boca Raton partner, industrialist Nelson Peltz, signed a letter of intent to buy the team. It was that simple.

Or maybe not. By July 30 the proposal had collapsed, no explanation given, but those close to the deal recognized the fingerprints of Wayne Huizenga. The trash hauler turned sports mogul had crept into the Dolphins picture soon after Joe Robbie's death, when the disastrously high taxes came to light. Huizenga provided financial assistance to the family; all he asked in return was half of Joe Robbie Stadium, a measly fifteen percent share of the Dolphins, and one tiny extra: the right of first refusal should the team be put up for sale, which meant he had the option of matching anyone else's bid for the team.

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