The National Football League lost a legendary figure on Thursday, as former Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell passed away at the age of 87.
Modell died of natural causes at John Hopkins Hospital. His son, former Ravens president David Modell, confirmed the news in a statement released by the Ravens.
"Sadly, I can confirm that my father died peacefully of natural causes at 4 a.m. this morning," David Modell said. "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.
"'Poppy' was a special man who was loved by his sons, his daughter-in-law Michel, and his six grandchildren. Moreover, he was adored by the entire Baltimore community for his kindness and generosity. And, he loved Baltimore. He made an important and indelible contribution to the lives of his children, grandchildren and his entire community. We will miss him."
Modell purchased the Cleveland Browns in 1961 for $4 million, an unprecedented sum at that time. The Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964, blanking the Baltimore Colts, 27-0.
Three decades later he uprooted the franchise, moving to Baltimore in 1996. However, he did leave behind the Browns franchise name.
Behind one of the most stout defensive units, the Ravens won the Super Bowl after the 2000 season, crushing the New York Giants by a 34-7 score.
Financial issues forced Modell to sell a minority share of the team to Steve Bisciotti in 1999 before yielding controlling interest to Bisciotti in 2004.
Modell served as NFL president from 1967-69 and as the chairman of the NFL's television committee for 31 years (1962-93). He also led negotiations on the NFL's first collective bargaining agreement with its players in 1968.
"Art Modell's leadership was an important part of the NFL's success during the league's explosive growth during the 1960s and beyond," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "As the longtime chairman of the league's Broadcast Committee, Art was a visionary who understood the critical role that mass viewing of NFL games on broadcast television could play in growing the league.
"Art played important roles in many other league matters as a key advisor to Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue, and also built championship teams in Cleveland and Baltimore. His skills as an owner and league contributor were matched only by his great sense of humor. Any conversation with Art included laughs. He always left you with a smile on your face. We extend our condolences to John, David and the rest of the Modell family."