|Born||Leonard Hyman Tose
March 6, 1915
|Died||April 15, 2003
|Organization||Philadelphia Eagles (1969–1985)|
Leonard Hyman Tose (March 6, 1915 – April 15, 2003) was an owner of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1969–1985. He made a fortune in the trucking industry and was known for his lavish lifestyle. He eventually lost his fortune because of a gambling addiction and alcoholism.
Tose's father, a Russian Jewish immigrant to the United States, settled outside Philadelphia and was a peddler with a pack on his back. He eventually owned 10 trucks, the beginning of the family business. Eventually, Tose Inc. owned more than 700 trucks and grossed $20 million a year. Tose was born in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia Eagles owner
Tose, a lifelong fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, invested in the team as a member of the "Happy Hundred," a group led by James P. Clark. Tose invested $3,000 as one of the one hundred owners to purchase the team from Alexis Thompson on January 15, 1949. Tose tried to buy the team with his own group of investors in 1956, but was unable to do so. The team was bought in December 1963 by Jerry Wolman for $5,505,000 and Tose received more than $60,000. He bought the team from Wolman in 1969 for $16,155,000, then a record for a professional sports franchise. Tose's first official act was to fire head coach Joe Kuharich. He followed this by naming former Eagles receiving great Pete Retzlaff as general manager and Jerry Williams as coach.
In 1976, he, along with General Manager Jimmy Murray, lured Dick Vermeil from UCLA to coach the hapless Eagles, who had one winning season from 1962–1975. Vermeil's 1980 team lost to Oakland in the Super Bowl. In January 1983, Tose announced that his daughter, Susan Fletcher, the Eagles' vice president and legal counsel, would eventually succeed him as primary owner of the Eagles.
In 1985 Tose was forced to sell the Eagles to Norman Braman and Ed Leibowitz, highly successful automobile dealers from Florida, for a reported $65 million to pay off his more than $25 million in gambling debts at Atlantic City casinos.
A slim, suave man who was always well dressed, Mr. Tose was, by his admission, a compulsive gambler and an alcoholic with a lifestyle others called flamboyant and he called comfortable. He and the fourth of his five wives had matching Rolls-Royces. Mr. Tose flew to Eagles home games in a helicopter, was married aboard the liner Queen Elizabeth 2 and fed reporters filet mignon and shrimp cocktail.
During his tenure as Eagles owner, Tose was instrumental in helping establish the first Ronald McDonald House. Together with General Manager Jim Murray and Eagles player Fred Hill (whose daughter had leukemia), Dr. Audrey Evans and McDonald's regional manager Ed Rensi, a house was established for families to stay when their children received treatment for pediatric cancers. The house was financed by proceeds from sales of Shamrock Shakes throughout the Philadelphia area.
After the Eagles
In 1991, the Sands sued him for $1.23 million in gambling debts. He countersued, contending that the casino got him too drunk to know what he was doing. Eventually, the casino won. There was testimony from a cocktail waitress swearing that her job description was "to keep Mr. Tose's glass filled." The casino provided a monogrammed glass which she was instructed to keep filled with top-shelf scotch.
In the end, he lost it all, by his estimate more than $20 million at Resorts International and $14 million at the Sands. In 1996, on his 81st birthday, Tose was evicted from his seven-bedroom Villanova mansion after losing the house in a U.S. Marshal's sale.
In 1999, he told a congressional hearing on compulsive gambling that his losses totaled between $40 million and $50 million. He spent his last years alone in a downtown hotel room after his home in Philadelphia's upscale Main Line district was confiscated for unpaid taxes. Mr. Tose died in his sleep in the hospice wing of St. Agnes Medical Center in Philadelphia on April 15, 2003. He was 88. No cause of death was released. An obituary by Dan Dunkin captured his life: "To put Leonard Tose's life in football terms, he threw on every down."
- GQ Magazine: "Leonard Tose" September 17, 2012
- Didinger, Ray; Robert S. Lyons (2005). The Eagles Encyclopedia. Temple University Press. pp. 127–128. ISBN 1-59213-449-1.
- Fitzpatrick, Frank (April 16, 2003). "Ex-Eagles owner Leonard Tose dies". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2011-10-28.