PHILADELPHIA, April 15 (UPI) -- Former Philadelphia Eagles owner Leonard Tose died in his sleep Tuesday at St. Agnes Hospital. He was 88.
Tose made his fortune in the trucking business and purchased the Eagles in 1969 for a then-record sum in excess of $16 million, but gambling debts forced him to sell the NFL franchise in 1985.
"On behalf of the entire Eagles organization, I sincerely regret the passing of Leonard Tose today," said Eagles Chairman Jeffrey Lurie. "I respect what he did for this organization during his 16 years as an owner. The city of Philadelphia and the National Football League lost a valuable contributor to their communities today."
While with the Eagles, Tose lent his financial and administrative support to high school football programs in Philadelphia. He also established the Eagles Fly for Leukemia program in 1973 to help support former Eagles tight end Ken Hill, whose daughter Kim was afflicted with leukemia.
Tose also was the driving force behind the Ronald McDonald House program, which provides families a place to live while their children are in the hospital.
In 1976, Tose lured Dick Vermeil from UCLA to coach the Eagles and Vermeil guided the team to Super Bowl XV in January 1981.
"I've lost a very close friend," said Vermeil, the coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. "I think the National Football League has lost one of its most unique characters in a position of ownership that ever existed."
However, Tose was a compulsive gambler and told a congressional hearing in 1999 that his losses totaled between $40 and $50 million.