Former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell died at 4 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 6 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., his son David Modell said in a statement released by the Baltimore Ravens.
Modell said his father "died peacefully of natural causes" and "was a special man who was loved by his sons, his daughter-in-law Michel and his six grandchildren.
"My brother John Modell and I were with him when he finally rejoined the absolute love of his life, my mother Pat Modell, who passed away last October."
Art Modell was 87 years old.
Cleveland philanthropist Milton Maltz said he and his wife Tamar "were saddened at the passing of our dear friend Art Modell. His philanthropic character shined through all the ups and downs of football. We will never forget during his many years in Cleveland, he was one of the community’s most generous benefactors."
Modell's lifelong friend, comedian Buddy Hackett, grew up with Modell in Brooklyn. Hackett died in 2003, but his son Sandy remembers his father speaking fondly about Modell.
"My dad always used to say to me, 'I'm friends with Art Modell, but I'm not sure why because we got into fisticuffs when I was a kid,'" Sandy Hackett said from his home in Las Vegas.
Hackett remembered meeting Modell, who told him, "You know, your father knocked out my tooth and I'm still mad at him for it."
Despite the childhood tiff, Hackett said his father adored Modell.
"He always spoke lovingly of Art," Hackett said. "He loved him as one of the guys in the neighborhood. ... Modell was a great NFL guy. He did what he had to do (moving the franchise to Baltimore).
"Look, my dad was a huge Rams fan, but the Rams are gone from Los Angeles. They went to St. Louis. The Lakers left Minneapolis. The Dodgers left Brooklyn."
The Cleveland Browns released a statement Sept. 6:
"The Cleveland Browns would like to extend their deepest condolences to the entire Modell family."
Modell, a New York City advertising executive, purchased the Cleveland Browns in 1961 for $4 million. He owned the team for 40 years until moving the franchise to Baltimore in 1996. Cleveland was without an NFL team for three years until Al Lerner bought the rights to a new Cleveland Browns team for $530 million in 1998.
Modell, who was instrumental in creating Monday Night Football as a member of the NFL’s television committee, volunteered the Browns to play in the first prime-time Thanksgiving game in 1966 and the first Monday night game in Cleveland in 1970.
He was a minority owner of the Ravens franchise.
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