BALTIMORE - One of the most influential owners in the history of the NFL, Art Modell helped mold the foundation of the league.
The innovative Modell, whose reputation was forever tainted when he moved his franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore, died early Thursday. He was 87.
David Modell said he and his brother, John, were at their father's side when he "died peacefully of natural causes."
"'Poppy' was a special man who was loved by his sons, his daughter-in-law Michel, and his six grandchildren," David Modell said. "Moreover, he was adored by the entire Baltimore community for his kindness and generosity. And, he loved Baltimore."
Modell was among the most important figures in the NFL as owner of the Cleveland Browns, who became the Ravens after he took the team to Baltimore in 1996 - a move that hounded him the rest of his life.
The Ravens won their lone Super Bowl in January 2001, less than a year after Modell sold a minority interest of the team to Steve Bisciotti. In April 2004, Bisciotti completed purchase of the franchise but left Modell a 1 percent share.
During his four decades as an NFL owner, Modell helped negotiate the league's lucrative contracts with television networks, served as president of the NFL from 1967 to 1969, and chaired the negotiations for the first the collective bargaining agreement with the players in 1968.
He also was the driving force behind the 1970 contract between the NFL and ABC to televise games on Monday night.
At one time one of Cleveland's biggest civic leaders, Modell became a pariah in Ohio after he moved the team.
"I have a great legacy, tarnished somewhat by the move," he said in 1999. "The politicians and the bureaucrats saw fit to cover their own rear ends by blaming it on me."