Fortune Up In Smoke Former Philadelphia Eagles Owner Loses Mass Fortune Gambling, Drinking
Sun., March 17, 1996
When gambling debts forced Leonard Tose to sell the Philadelphia Eagles for $65 million, he figured he was set for life.
“I came out with all the money I’ll ever need,” he said at the time.
He was wrong.
Eleven years later, on his 81st birthday, Tose bottomed out, brought to ruin by drinking and gambling.
On March 6, the former football team owner answered a knock on the door of his mansion on the exclusive Main Line and stood face to face with a sheriff’s deputy.
Within seconds, the one-time trucking magnate was staring at a court-ordered eviction notice. Within hours, he was watching helplessly as the locks were changed on the seven-bedroom Radnor home he had owned for more than 30 years. A moving company removed what few furnishings remained.
Tose’s slide from Philadelphia’s man-about-town to someone looking for a place to stay was a story of excess.
Tose liked to drink and he liked to gamble. Combined, the two vices were disastrous to his bank account and his social standing.
The son of a Russian immigrant, he made millions from his trucking business. But he could also drop thousands at the gaming tables without blinking. He once estimated he lost more than $10 million at Atlantic City casinos.
Tose’s relationship with the casinos hit a breaking point in 1991, when The Sands sued him for failing to make an installment payment on a $1.3 million debt.
He countersued, claiming the casino induced him to gamble away more than a $1 million on six occasions when he was drunk on gratis liquor. The Sands acknowledged coddling Tose but denied plying him with alcohol.
A jury ruled against him.
Meanwhile, the financial vise tightened.
Tose and his companies were sued by banks for more than $2 million and a judgment was entered against Ithan Corp., a Tose business listed as the owner of the Radnor house.
Ithan filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1994. Tose lost three cars, including a 1985 Rolls-Royce.
Finally, the mansion was placed on the block. After several postponements, Tose lost it in a U.S. marshal’s auction.
Tose’s purchase of the Eagles in 1969 may have been a sign of the lavish spending and financial problems that were to come.
He paid $16.15 million for the team, then a record for a sports franchise. He flew to Eagles home games in a helicopter, got married aboard the QE2, fed reporters filet mignon and shrimp cocktail.
Former Philadelphia Inquirer sports editor Frank Dolson once wrote: “Some people collect stamps for a hobby. Others buy antiques. Tose’s hobby is spending money.”
Many of his spending sprees were for good causes.
He was the driving force behind the Ronald McDonald House program, which provides families a place to live while their children are in the hospital. He also bankrolled the Eagles Fly for Leukemia program.
He has been married four times; he and his latest wife, Julia, divorced last year. He has one daughter, who served as a vice president of the Eagles when her father owned the team.
Messages from The Associated Press requesting an interview with Tose went unanswered. Acquaintances refused to disclose his whereabouts, and it was not known whether he has any homes elsewhere.
In his heyday, Tose was a boisterous guy who was eager to please and often used his checkbook to do it. But he has been unwilling to discuss his problems publicly, and friends say the casino dispute caused him great pain.
Former Eagles general manager Jim Murray, whom Tose once fired, has stood by his ex-boss through it all.
Murray remembers watching Tose, a Jew, write a $25,000 check to pay for an altar during the pope’s 1979 visit to the city. But he also remembers pulling a drunken and reluctant Tose away from the cards.
“It’s not the happiest memory,” Murray said. Gambling “is a most complex and most underestimated addiction.”
Tose was devastated by the eviction and the death of his close friend, Cardinal John Krol, all in the same week, Murray said. Tose wept at Krol’s funeral two days after the eviction.
Tose has recognized his addictions and is dealing with them, Murray said.
“He doesn’t blame anyone else but himself for his problems. He knows what he’s done,” Murray said. “Leonard does not want a pity party. … Even in his demise, he’s probably leading the pack in class.
“His spirits are high,” he said. “He is absolutely dedicated to bringing himself out of this. You have not heard the end of Leonard Tose. His best days are ahead. You get a lot of wisdom through adversity.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.